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The role of 'play' in a child's development

Posted on Tuesday, 17 January 2012, in Parenting & Families

Play is sometimes not seen as important. A negative attitude can be seen from the following comments “it is only play” and “they do nothing in nursery but play”. Our society places a great deal of importance on academic and economic achievements that play may seem as trivial. It is certainly not a waste of time.  Read how play serves an important function in human development.

Play serves many important functions in human development. It is a special activity where children can explore the world and themselves. It is a fun experience, however so much more is happening. It also helps to develop physical skills, imagination, social skills, relaxation and a sense of mastering their world. Children love to see their parents watch them play and respect this play space.

Some parents may get carried away and enter children’s play and make it into a lesson. When this happens the magic is broken. For example a little boy is playing with miniature animals and is making what appears to be a farm with horses and places a lion. The parent may say “lion is not a farm animal”. At that moment the parent is turning the spontaneous imaginative play into a lesson on the classification of animals.

A parent may get so involved that they enter the play and take over “that tiger is hurting the baby seal let’s make him be kind to the baby seal”. The parent may be worried about the aggression in the play, especially if that child had been showing anger at their new born sibling. No wonder then, that the child may lose interest or may not want the parent to be involved. However there is something so special when a parent witnesses the play of the child and does not control or turn the play into a classroom activity. Play is not about the end product.


How can I play with my child?

There are times when parents help children learn but play should be the place where the child directs and is the author of his or her own world. Sometimes children give you a role to play and tell you exactly how to play it. Then you are invited to enter their play world, sit back, enjoy it and do not hijack it.


Play starts immediately from birth.

Play starts immediately from birth. Babies love to look at shapes that have features of a human face. They stretch and reach out, look at where noise and light is coming from. Babies and toddlers enjoy sensory play, touch and explore objects, see what these objects can do and what they can do with these objects. With the first signs of language development (understanding some words, babbling and first words) they start showing pretend play. One can observe a toddler pretending to comfort a doll, turning a box into a bed. Parents can verbalise what the child is doing without changing what they are creating. The child is developing further self-expression and a sense of self

Rikie specialises in treating mental health issues including ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and conduct disorders in children and adolescents.  She is also very experienced in family therapy, drama therapy and parenting issues.

To arrange an appointment with Rikie please call Caroline on 0203 326 9160 or read more about Rikie and her experience.

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