Friday, November 30, 2007

Learning Through Play

Have you ever just stood in a nearby room and listened while your child is playing? All the wonderful things that they say and imagine can bring a warm smile to the face of an adoring parent. I was just sitting here at my computer listening to my daughter in the next room saying "prepare to be amazed!" I immediately felt excited as if something grand was going to happen. Something grand did happen, she began to play and become engrossed in her imaginative play! I then felt that warm smile come across my face. This brings a question to mind. Have you ever thought about how important play is to your child? Well, let me first say that there are many different kinds of play. If your child is in their first year of life, you are probably noticing that they reach and grab things much of the time. Perhaps they are already dropping things and banging them on a hard surface or two toys together? This type of play is extremely important for young children and is an exploring type of play. Another type of play is known as relational play. This is when toys just don't hold the child's attention and they want your stuff, the "real" stuff. I just loved this stage when I could never find my cell phone or car keys, especially when I was running late for work:) After this stage comes symbolic play. This is when your child is able to remember past events and use their thinking abilities to do things that are real world related. They use more words and imitate things going on around them. At about age two, they are able to engage in constructive play. This is when it is important to have plenty of construction paper, blocks, play dough and paints around. Don't expect them to build the Empire State building just yet though. Many of their creations may not look very creative at first. I'm sure you have heard this before, but it's important so I'll say it again. It's not the product that is important, it's the process. Interwoven in their play beginning at the age of 18 months and onward, you will notice the onset of pretend play. This is one of the most exciting play stages because it can take you to all of the wondrous places of your child's mind. You can actually see what they are thinking! Sunshyne is now 6 years old and I still love watching her engage in pretend play. She loves to pretend to be a pirate or dinosaur. Her latest fascination is pretending to be a jaguar, crawling around on the floor making the cutest sound. I'm sure it's not the sound of a real jaguar, but it's the sound of my little jaguar. So how does playing effect your child's learning. First and formost, playing is fun and that makes it easy for them to learn about the world around them. Children are able to problem solve, build language skills, and learn how to cooperate with another person. As parents we can use play to teach math skills, reading and just about any other subject. Play will also help develop their self-esteem by allowing them to do things own their own and express their own ideas in a safe way. Some other benefits of play is eye-hand coordination, strength building and motor skill development, self-direction and values, curiosity and exploration. Now that is a list worthy of saying "let's play!" Well, that's it for me today. Feel free to share your comments on your little ones favorite ways to play!

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