“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” — Kay Redfield Jamison
It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids love to play. Whether by themselves, with imaginary friends, or with real friends, for children, play is the best part of the day. If you think it’s all fun and no learning, think again. When you spot your kiddo skipping by themselves down the lane, playing catch with your neighbor’s kid, or slaying a pretend dragon while adorned in shining aluminum armor, you witness the many colors of play-based learning. As a parent, how do you maximize the value derived from the many hours your child spends playing one beloved game after another? Perhaps a good way to start is to identify the types of play that should be indulged in more because of the treasure trove of benefits they hold.
Cooperative Play Cooperative play is nothing but group play. Kids spend playtime with one or more friends, expanding their worlds past the familiarity and comfort of solitary play. There are board games, outdoor games, and even creative activities such as crafting and gardening to be enjoyed. Picture your child and their friends playing a game of marbles. It’s the simplest thing in the world, but it teaches them so much. They learn to have patience, to share, to give others a chance, and to work together towards a common goal. Often termed ‘social play’, cooperative play builds a child’s social skills tremendously, particularly their communication skills, and it takes different forms, evolving with your child. It first manifests itself as family play, wherein tiny tots play with one or both parents or with siblings. Later on, during the schooling years, it develops into competitive play. Kids take up sports and play in teams, all the while learning lessons about responsibility, discipline, teamwork, winning & losing, and playing by the rules. Through increased cooperative play, preschoolers can bloom into confident, empathetic individuals. Can you believe that: all that development through play?
Open-Ended Play Welcome to a world without limitations and fixed outcomes. Open-ended play is any activity that encourages children to think outside the box. Kids’ games involving blocks, clay dough, sand, and similar playthings find a home in this category. There is very little to hold back a child’s creativity and imagination. The ideas and narratives are their own, and if they need answers, they must look for them by themselves. Artistry, critical thinking, life skills, values can all be fostered through open-ended play.
The beauty of open-ended play is that it can be both constructive and pretend-based. Both forms feed curiosity and turn kiddos into creators. Constructive play gives children the opportunity to learn while building. Think of it as putting their imagination to practical use. Castles made of sand, forts made of pillows, and cars made of legos, they all have their place in constructive play. While your child stacks objects, fits them together, and constructs towers, rockets, and more, they learn to recognize shapes and patterns, they develop their logic & reasoning, and they become quite the problem solver. Pretend, symbolic, or imaginative play (Yes, it goes by multiple names) is a wonderland unto itself, and children go there to live out their dreams. Indulging simultaneously in fantasy and dramatic play, kids roleplay as singers, chefs, pirates, astronauts, warriors, and more, and live in lands beyond our reach. The best benefit of this branch of open-ended play is that it teaches children to imagine. It builds self-expression and is a sight to behold! When children play pretend, they develop emotionally and become independent thinkers.
Fluid Play Most activities that make up playtime are physical in nature: solving a jigsaw puzzle, riding a bike, going on a treasure hunt in the backyard. Physical play also goes by the name ‘motor play’, so it’s easy to guess that it’s great for your child’s motor skills, both fine and gross. Kids get exercise, build coordination, strength, and stamina, and enjoy good doses of fun. Then there’s a more modern category of play: virtual or digital play. Kids love it! Who can blame them? We ourselves cannot resist the escapism of the virtual universe. Video games, virtual reality, augmented reality, kids’ learning apps, and the rest are playgrounds where today’s child has the time of their life. That’s not all they do. In the digital realm, your kid can take on countless roles and learn pretty much anything. They can master math and grammar, but they can also furnish their own home, bake their favorite foods, and play the drums!
Does this mean digital play must take precedence over physical play in the 21st century? We have observed that a blend of both is ideal: something we see in phygital innovations . This fusion is called fluid play, and it’s loaded with the combined benefits of both. It’s the best of both worlds, and you can encourage and facilitate it inexpensively! How? Give your toddler traditional toys but also access to devices. Plan activities that utilize both. Get creative. Your kiddo will follow suit.
The term ‘child’s play’ takes on many more meanings when you consider what you just read, doesn’t it? Let them play. You’ll get a chance to witness them grow.