All work and no play make Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl! An often heard comment, but recently research shows that there is much truth in this simple saying. Dr. Stuart Brown says in his book ‘Play’ that people in jobs are not able to find solutions to problems or make new discoveries or survive a crisis efficiently all because they have lost touch with play in their lives or were brought up in a ‘play-less’ environment. He says that, “those who had worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to ‘see solutions’ that those who hadn’t worked with their hands could not. They couldn’t’ spot the key flaw in complex systems they were working on, toss the problem around, break it down, pick it apart, tease out its critical elements, and rearrange them in innovative ways that led to a solution.”
If play teaches us all of the above then what happened to play? What is leading to its slow extinction? Many reasons. Car parks have replaced ball parks, making children achieve trophies and medals has become more important than learning a skill or a game.
So how does play help us? Play has its impact in varying ways in all stages of life. As a baby lying in a cot, play is about the random movement of the hand hitting a toy hanging in the crib. Here this random play teaches the baby about cause and effect and he/she learns to internalise this action to get a reaction which is the movement or the sound of that toy.
As the baby becomes a toddler, play is about touching, shaking and throwing every object and this leads to the child understanding about holding, picking up, letting go, enhancing the neural networks of the brain as it helps excite the five senses, the pathways to the brain and it also helps child develop eye hand co-ordination and fine motor development.
As the child grows older toys become their play. Balls, dolls, teddies and cars involve them and they are able to explore, talk, relate to others and learn through trial and error.
Then comes the symbolic play stage, when a child is able to substitute a block of wood to be a telephone and they can play differently using each object to be something else. Not many adults know that symbolic play is what will eventually help a child in reading and writing.
Let me explain: first a child will use a telephone as a telephone in role play, then when they don’t have a telephone, the child will substitute it with an object that looks like a telephone and pretend that it is a telephone. So we can say that the child has learnt to represent the telephone with another object. Now let’s understand reading: first a child recognises the picture of a ball, and then slowly he learns to read the word ‘ball’. For the child, the word ‘ball’ immediately brings to mind a picture of one. So reading is nothing but representation of letters to mean a picture! Now if this child is not allowed to play games that involve symbolic play, their reading and writing will naturally suffer.
As the child grows older, play is about group games, games with rules and rough and tumble play. This kind of play is again important in our later work life, as rough and tumble play teaches how to recognise signals from playmates: signals about stop, or I am enjoying, or I want the play to end. In rough and tumble play, the players may be squealing with delight or with fright, and players learn to recognise and use these signals for social development and social skills development. These body signs will help in later work/life relationships. Have you seen teenagers indulge in rough and tumble play? When you watch them you might feel they are punching and harming each other, but it is nothing but harmless rough and tumble play and it is also helpful for ‘cardiovascular health’.
Play continues even in adult life when we joke with friends as part of play or play pranks on each other or have impromptu bets or challenges or play a game of estimation like, ‘guess how many runs will Edwin make today?’. All this is nothing but play. It relaxes us, helps us bond, helps relieve us from stress and makes us happy.
So choice is ours –play or grow or don’t play and rot the brain cells away! Then why not play?
10 toys and what they do for children. Check whether you have them all for your child.
- Cuddling toys- help a child feel secure, helps in general feeling of well being.
- Building toys- helps in logic, thinking, imagination, language development and creativity.
- Role play toys- help a child understand the adult world, how people behave and act and play out different duties.
- Creative toys- help a child develop thinking, creativity, giving the satisfaction of choosing what they want to create and also acts as an emotional outlet.
- Reading toys- help a child develop necessary vocabulary, reading skills, interest in reading, picture recognition and lots more.
- Puzzling toys- helps develop logic, problem-solving skills.
- Breaking and putting together toys- helps them to vent out emotions or aggression without the guilt, also helps them to achieve an important need of exploration and curiosity.
- Pounding toys- helps release emotions and aggression.
- Riding toys- good for balance, sense of freedom and movement.
- Outdoor toys- nature, out in the open and so good for exercise of entire body; activities for crawling, creeping, jumping, digging, etc.
Lets Play, after all Play is the work of childhood.
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