Play is a vital part of childhood. Through play, children communicate how they feel and what they’re thinking. It provides children the opportunity to practice what they have learned. Play involves cognition, emotion, and the body allowing for integration of a child’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. It also promotes self-regulation. Play is an art form allowing children to create and dream. Play is a form of science allowing children to practice, replicate, experiment, and learn.
Play is not only fun, it’s a serious business for a child. In their article, “The Power of Play”, Yogman, Garner, Hutchinson, Hirsh-Pasek, and Golinkoff state, “Play is not frivolous. It is brain building" (2018).
Benefits of play for children:
Improves executive functioning
Fosters healthy peer relations
Benefits of play within the parent-child dyad:
Strengthens the parent-child relationship
Decreases parental experience of stress related to caregiving
Opportunity for co-regulation - Co-regulation is the process by which a caregiver models self-regulation skills within a warm, physically and emotionally safe environment helping a child to feel calm and confident. The caregiver can also act as a buffer from environmental stressors through co-regulation (Rosanbalm and Murray, 2017).
Allows a child to feel seen, heard, understood, and valued via emotional attunement - the ability to appropriately respond to a child based on their emotional state and needs.
For some ideas of ways to play:
The Genius of Play website has play ideas categorized by age, developmental benefit, and prep time.
Hands on As We Grow’s blog is a great place to find more play ideas.
Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Promoting Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-79. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.
Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). The Power
of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics,142(3). doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058