Play is the most powerful catalyst of whole child development. In fact, it’s so effective at achieving goals that it has become known as a “child’s work”. When your little one plays, he is literally at work – bedding down every imaginable skill.
When we talk about play affecting the whole child, it is important to see how play actually affects each aspect of a child’s development:
Motor skills – the human baby starts life with poor control over his body – at the mercy of gravity. Over the course of the first 4 years, your little one will develop gross motor skills in the form of walking and refined coordination of skills such as skipping and kicking. This lays down the foundation for the development of fine motor skills. Playing under a play gym provides the best opportunity to exercise little muscles and refine the basis of fine motor skills, through reaching for objects. Crawling under and through objects and a tunnel is fabulous for these emerging gross motor skills.
Language skills – listening and responding to sounds and making sense of their meaning happens when little ones are exposed to music, words and phrases. Playing with toys that make sounds, especially meaningful language can help little one’s language acquisition. This is best done when a parent or carer plays together with them.
Emotional intelligence – through play, a child learns about their feelings and that their ideas are important. Furthermore, mastery of a toy or activity builds self-esteem. Play provides the platform for mastery and an opportunity to connect with carers or friends which helps EQ to emerge.
Concepts and intelligence – toys that have colours and shapes and in built cause-and-effect, teach basic concepts and develop intelligence.
Creativity – Open ended games and toys allow little ones to be more creative – creating their own ending or end product. Imaginary play is one of the most powerful types of play to encourage creativity.
As one can see, play is the best way for us to develop the whole child. To do this, allow time for free and imaginary play, play with your child and try to choose toys like the 4-in-1 Ocean Activity Centre from Fisher-Price, which is so versatile that literally all aspects of development are encouraged.