Play is an essential part of a child's development, contributing to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. It provides an ideal opportunity for parents to be involved with their children and helps them learn about the world and themselves. Unfortunately, free play time has been significantly reduced for some children due to a hasty lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academic and enrichment activities. This article will discuss the importance of play for child development and provide guidelines on how pediatricians can advocate for children by helping families, school systems and communities consider how best to ensure that play is protected while seeking balance in children's lives.
Play promotes relationships with oneself and with others, relieves stress and increases happiness, develops feelings of empathy, creativity and collaboration, supports the growth of robustness and grit. It also helps children learn and solve problems in the future by influencing the way they learn, solve problems and acquire knowledge about their environment. When children enter school, play is still important as research shows that students pay more attention to their work after an unstructured play break. Daily outdoor time is also key as it supports children's mental health and increased capacity for self-regulation.
The symbolic game is the ability to imagine one object as another. For example, a stick, a bucket and pine cones can be turned into a kitchen spoon, a pot and delicious ingredients. Symbolic play is an important part of healthy development. Neuroscientists have found that enrichment such as toys, games and activities can alter brain chemistry and child development.
The area of the brain associated with increased cognitive processing (the cerebral cortex) may benefit from environmental enrichment and children's play more than other parts of the brain. A study by the University of Arkansas shows that regularly offering toys to babies to play with leads to higher IQs by age three. Psychologist Edward Fisher analyzed 46 studies conducted on gambling and discovered that playing could improve the child's cognitive, linguistic and social development. To test this association in a study, researchers randomly assigned 52 children aged six to seven to two activities.
In the first activity, the children copied text from a blackboard while in the second they played with salt dough. Free play or independent play is an unstructured form of play that encourages children to design their own game. The simulation game requires the child to imagine scenarios and then interpret them. The freedom of this type of play allows children to be creative and imagination feeds creativity.
Some studies have also found that creative teens tend to have imaginary friends in childhood. A study sought to understand if communication could benefit from gambling. Researchers looked at what happened when a baby started playing with a toy. They found that if the mother responded by manipulating and naming the toys, the baby—when tested three months later—would have better language skills. Another study conducted by the University of Georgia observed sixty-five kindergarten children in their classrooms for four weeks.
The presence of the game, especially dramatic play, was found to predict performance in prereading, language and writing. Simulation play is especially beneficial because it allows young children to practice new vocabulary when they speak and try to understand others during social play. They often correspond to the words and actions of others to reach an agreement. In a New Zealand study, psychologists examined how children handled negative events during pretend play. They found that children who had more simulated games with their caregivers better regulated their emotions to continue playing. The regulation of emotions is not only essential to academic success but also the psychosocial aspects of child development; it is a strong indicator of a child's social success.
In preschool, children who exhibit better emotional control are more pleasant and socially competent. Play is also crucial for improving children's social development; active unstructured play with others including parents, siblings and peers is an important opportunity to cultivate social skills. While playing, the act of pretending and negotiating with peers improves children's social skills. Psychologists found that the quantity and complexity of preschool children's fantasy play significantly predicted their social skills and popularity as well as their positive social activity. When children try various roles they learn to adopt different perspectives which will help them even more in abstract thinking. Because play is imperative in a child's development, play-based preschoolers can provide a better learning environment than other alternatives; when choosing a preschool parents should pay attention to how classes are conducted whether the “play to learn” approach is used and how much free play is allowed. Every child should have time to play as it strengthens memory helps them understand cause and effect explore the world around them build trust cope with difficult situations develop critical thinking skills increase creativity improve language skills regulate emotions become socially competent.