What is PLAY?

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Play is simply a time for kids to use their toys and have fun ... or at least that's how it seems.

One day I watched my three children play. My eldest boy, Miggy (7 years old) took out his lego blocks while his younger siblings, Julia and Mikee surrounded him. Immediately, my engineers started work. Every now and then, one would say "Hey, mine is higher than yours!," challenging the other two to work harder. But every now and then also, a tower would break down, leaving its maker at the bottom of the race again. Finally, Miggy, piled the longer blocks at the bottom and the shorter ones on top, laying a strong foundation for his tower. "Aha, I win!" he declares.

It's amazing to see how children learn on their ow ... through play. Play is an important part of learning process as it touches the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor dimensions of a child.

Cognitive Development

Play enables children to make sense of their world. Experts refer to this as the cognitive benefits of playing. In their play, Miggy, Julia and Mikee demonstrated the four elements of cognitive development described by Perkins (1984):

1. Problem solving. By comparing the height of their blocks, they are introduced to the concept of size.

2. Self-monitoring. Throughout their play, they decided on their own which block to place, take out or replace; which should go first and which ones should be next.

3. Mental planning. Miggy found a strategy to lay a good foundation for his tower.

4. Evaluation. After evaluating all their work, Miggy declared himself the "winner".

Today, there are many educational toys that have been helpful for the cognitive development of children such as shape sorters, scrabble and  tic-tac-toe. But surprisingly, even the simplest objects such as pebbles and leaves can turn into educational toys that can be used for counting, experimenting, etc.

Affective Development

Have you read the poem "All I Really Need To Know, I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum? The poem enumerates the basic rules that we were repeatedly told in kindergarten, such as sharing and saying "sorry". Rules that seemed so simple, yet so applicable in our adult years. Reading through the poem, it's amazing to see how the basic lessons of life had been taught in our early years, but we somehow have forgotten. Could it be mainly because we have forgotten how to play?

Through play, children learn social skills such as sharing and taking turns. As kids, we were told, "Put things back where you found them", "Clean up your mess" and "Play fair". These are the basic rules of our child's play. Plus of course the constant reminder of not hitting anyone, and saying sorry when you hurt somebody. Truly, the basics of discipline are learned through play.

As we course through adulthood, it is also the skills that we discovered through the games we played in the playground that we try to refine - our sense of safety and danger, freedom and boundaries, cooperation and teamwork.

Psychomotor Development

We also cannot undermine the benefit of kids playground equipment on a child's psychomotor development. A research by Duerr Evaluation Resources reveals that "playgrounds offer infants and toddlers a base for simple motor and exercise play and provide an environment to foster these skills.

The lack of physical fitness among children poses a danger to their health as adults, and playground equipment is one avenue to promote physical activity of children."

It might be hard to believe but the idea of playgrounds and childhood shouldn't be equated to pure fun only . As parents, it is essential for us to understand that there is more to PLAY than just having fun. It is our children's way to build an active mind and body, to arouse their curiosity, to explore the world, to make choices, to interact, to learn the rules of life, to gain confidence, and yes, to have fun along the way. These are the skills that we continue to refine through adulthood.

Perhaps if we parents would watch our kids at play, we shall discover that there is a lot for us to learn at play too. It can teach us creativity, perseverance, and ways to share our joy and laughter.

So the next time you see your toddler at play, don't dare to bother him at work! Just join him ... perhaps there's a lot that you can learn from each other.

Author's Bio: 

Anna Rodriguez is a manager and a passionate writer. She owns Homey Guide Blog. You can follow her at @annrodriguez021