Every parent wants their child to be an academic success, but what if they lack the basic life skills necessary to cope with social interactions and challenges? The pre-school age is the pivotal time to establish a proper balance of academic and social skills, and one of the best ways to develop these skills is already second nature to your child: play.
Believe it or not, play is a vital context for children to learn, providing a safe environment to nurture a variety of soft skills that complement traditional direct instruction in the classroom.
Too often, play is disregarded as an important element of child development, but studies have shown that a lack of play can be detrimental to a child, resulting in anxiety and sensory issues, trouble with sharing and difficulty in controlling emotions. A child deprived of play is a child ill-equipped for life.
How does the power of play help your child become a well-rounded academic and social success? Here are three important benefits every parent should know about play.
#1. Social Development
Children learn about the world around them through play, engaging in important social dynamics in a stress-free setting. Parents will often be a child’s first playmate, but as children venture out independently into their own social circles at the playground, play deepens into a learning context for negotiation, conflict resolution and decision making. Play gives children the freedom to create and explore a world they can control, overcoming their fears while practicing adult behaviours.
#2. Language Skills
Play encourages creativity and imagination, providing an outlet for the natural urge to share their feelings and tell stories. Not only does this storytelling develop communication and conversational skills with their peers, but it reinforces language lessons taught in the traditional classroom setting. For example, children strengthen their grammar and vocabulary skills as they name and play with toy dinosaurs or describe coloured building blocks when creating a castle.
#3. Cognitive Development
The foundation for a lifetime of learning begins during the years from birth to age eight as the brain develops critical neural connections. Children use active hands-on play to develop essential life skills such as problem solving, cause and effect, trial and error, and more, allowing children to safely master a variety of challenges. Ideas and skills turn into useful tools that children can use to make friends, build confidence and ultimately succeed in their education.
Have you underestimated the power of play in your child’s development? Play has a purpose in developing both strong minds and bodies, and neglecting the sheer joy of being a child is a wasted chance to learn.
In his 2012 National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “It is good for young children to play and to learn through play.” Indeed, parents would be wise to heed these words because whether it’s in a classroom setting or playing with friends, every moment can become a learning opportunity for your child.