- Author: Sue S. Manglallan
Preschoolers and toddlers are developing in many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Each child is different. Each learns in his or her own special way and his or her own particular pace. Some children may acquire certain capabilities earlier than their peers, but not be as skilled in other areas. It is not uncommon to find a child who is physically larger than many other children, but does not have the social abilities common to other children his or her own age. Or another child may excel in cognitive skills, but be less developed in large and small motor ability. These differences are normal and should not alarm parents.
Young children are learning an enormous amount of information and skills that contributes to their overall development. Much of this learning is through “play”. Play is natural for children and so important that some refer to play as children's work. Play can help children learn how to create, explore, solve problems, and begin to understand the concepts and skills they will need for school and future success.
Play has many forms and numerous benefits. The following are several ways that play contributes to young children's development:
Play is a way to overcome emotional anxieties and stresses. Dramatic and pretend play can help a child work out fears and conflicts by pretending to be someone else.
Play is fun. When one is having fun, one feels good about oneself. Children who are actively engaged in fun play develop a positive view of their environment, the people around them, and themselves.
There are many benefits to physical play. Active children doing playful activities are building both large and small muscles and coordination.
Intellectual Development Play can be a buffer to many ordinary, real-world consequences. Children can experiment, make mistakes and work on mastery of a skill without many of the pressures that may occur in other, less playful settings. This builds children's problem solving abilities and intellectual development.
Communication and Social Skills
Play even in infancy encourages communication. Think of an infant or toddler playing peek-a-boo or patty cake. Even if they don't yet have verbal skills, they are communicating their pleasure in the experience. As children grow older, play uses more and more social skills. Children learn to speak, listen, and communicate through these experiences.
It is important that young children have toys and materials that stimulate learning and discovery, but it is far more important that they have the help of caring adults who can encourage their play and learning.