child development importance of play

Play is often talked about as if it is a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.  – Fred Rogers

The value of play often gets underestimated when children reach the pre-school years, and parents feel pressure to have their kids “school ready” and learn concrete skill sets that are not necessary for their developmental age.  I love playing with my son, watching him play by himself, or with friends.  He learns so much through playing, and so do I.  Problem solving, social learning, language, math and physics, biology, chemistry, literacy skills are just some of the areas of understanding a child develops when supported in their play.  Children do not acquire developmental concepts before they can, even if they are very intelligent.  It is a misconception that we can accelerate development, and research in educational psychology shows us this.  It is true however, that children develop similarly within a range at different paces in all areas.  Children acquire more learning and meet developmental milestones  when we allow them the space to create and explore with play.

My son plays with tools, building things, taking them apart, and figuring how to make something work, just like his Papa.  One day I had the tedious task on my “ to do”  list of assembling a book shelf.  Pretty simple, right?  Well, it was pretty simple, but my 5 year old pointed out an error I was making. I acquiesced and allowed him to take over.  He read the diagrams in the instruction manual quickly and with ease.  He identified matching tiny bits and pieces, counted and organized them where they belonged, along with the larger pieces for assembly.   I just did the heavy labor and tightened the screws where he put them.   I’ll admit I was surprised.  I realized that all those irritating times I would find screw drivers here and there, step on screws, fall over things taken apart when I wasn’t looking, have all lead up to this moment!

Children learn through play, through experimenting with the things in their world.  I invite you to start noticing the many things your child does in “play” that you might not see as play. Find ways that support these moments.  When we play, and are not in a mode stressed out to achieve or have concerns about getting approval or disapproval we are best able to learn and create.  I say we, because this goes for adults and children alike.  Play creates an optimum environment for learning, all the time.  Cooperative play and collaboration, symbolic play, are all areas of learning important to develop. Working with others, taking another person’s idea and elaborating on the theme, and using imagination are just some essential skills play facilitates in child development.  They are also essential skills for life!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein.

Image Credit: Paul Bacon Jr

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Andrea Giammattei has a Master of Science in Special Education from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Oneonta State University. She is a seasoned learning specialist, educational therapist, and counselor with over 25 years experience. She has worked in public and private schools, as well as in private practice. Andrea has a diverse interdisciplinary background, experience leading teams, and many years of experience working closely with students and parents in partnership. In private practice she performs educational assessments and designs individualized curriculum for students with varied learning differences including ADHD, dyslexia, Math disabilities, visual and language based challenges, sensory challenges and spectrum disorders. Andrea is passionate and clear that students need to be taught skills for emotional intelligence as well as cognitive intelligence, and that these skills are easily integrated. She believes the kids greatly desire to work hard and be successful. Students are creative and inspired to be their best in the right environment, and will expand to their unique potential when given the chance and with people who believe in them. As an innovative educational leader, teacher and counselor, Andrea strives to inspire motivating learning environments full of curiosity, the courage to take risks, and development of positive self-esteem. She believes that the relationship between a teacher and her students needs to be one of trust partnership and creativity. Andrea is the owner of Open Minds Learning. You can reach Andrea at 808 280 0535 or at andreagia2014@gmail.com . She is currently residing in NY City.

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