Childs play

So much more than mucking about and making a mess, play is fundamental to children’s learning and development, explains JUDE SOPER from BestStart Educare.

WHY IS PLAY SO IMPORTANT?
Play, with its limitless possibilities, helps children to:
– make sense of their world
– understand emotions and relationships
– test theories and solve problems
– pursue their imaginations and grow their creativity
– discover interests and strengths
– explore and develop respect for the environment
– challenge and grow their physical capabilities
– develop persistence and resilience
– build self-belief and confidence
– develop social skills and build trusting relationships with others

OUTDOOR PLAY
The outdoors offers the best playground of all. Whether it’s climbing ladders or trees, searching for ‘treasures’ or constructing huts – at the river, in the forest or in their backyard – the outdoors opens up a world of possibilities, allowing children to pursue their interests, imaginations and investigations, and ultimately build their confidence and self-belief at the same time that they develop their muscles and their brains!

Allowing children to take risks, while ensuring they are safe, is incredibly empowering. And, by embracing the wintry elements, you help to fuel their fascination with the natural world and grow their appreciation of their own capabilities.

HOW CAN I SUPPORT THEIR PLAY?
Do you ever sit and watch children at play, and feel amazed by their autonomy and focus, and by their capacity to solve their own problems? As neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis reminds us, play enables children to follow their own thought processes and to sustain their attention and focus – both of which are fundamental for brain development.

To support children’s play, it is important to:
– Support children to put their ideas into practice – without interrupting or taking over, and without tidying up after them while they are in the flow.
– Support children to make connections with others, develop friendships and regulate their behaviour, or support them to play alone if that is their preference.
– Listen more than talk. When asking questions, take time to listen to their answers or opinions.
– Provide opportunities for children to get physical – to roll down hills, climb trees, spin in circles, swing, run, balance and kick. Unstructured freedom of movement is vital for children’s cognitive development and growth.

0508 BESTSTART / best-start.org

Passionate about the untold possibilities of play, BestStart Educare has produced Bright Ideas for Young Minds, a vibrant book that’s bursting with play ideas to pursue with your children.