Play is ‘a physical or mental leisure activity that is undertaken purely for enjoyment or amusement and has no other objective’. Play can take up many forms, the heart of all play is pleasure: If it isn’t fun, it isn’t play. We play from birth on — we play using our bodies (building with blocks) and our minds (fantasy play); We use words to play (jokes, wit, and humour); we use props (blocks, toys, games). While the exact nature of play evolves, becoming more complex as we grow, play at all ages brings pleasure. Play is rather one of the best modes for optimum development of a child physically and mentally. Play allows children to practice skills they will use in situations throughout life.
1. Cognitive Development:
Children develop planning skills through the process of choosing what, how, and where they will play. Things that children learn through play help them with subjects in school. Imaginative play – with toys, with other children, with parents, or even by themselves – builds children’s language and reading readiness skills. Children learn about physics when they build with blocks or slide down a slide. They learn about biology when they explore frogs, mud puddles, and feathers. Filling dump trucks with sand helps children understand math concepts. Children learn about science by watching clouds and chasing butterflies with their friends. Cognitive development in young children could be fostered through games and activities involving sorting, classifying, matching, etc. Various board games for specifically for cognitive development: Treasure Hunt, Snakes and Ladder, UNO, Cards, Mastermind, Plot 4, Cluedo, Othello, Business to name a few.
2. Language Development:
Play provides children of all ages to be with age mates where they get to hear lot of language and the way thoughts are communicated in words so that others understand. Children practice and develop language skills during play. A child’s play with words, including singsong games and rhymes that accompany games of tag, can help him master semantics, practice spontaneous rhyming, and foster word play. Several language games prevalent in our society are: Antakshri, riddles, Name-Place-Animal-Thing, Atlas, Scrabble, Taboo, Pictionery, etc.
3. Social Development:
Children learn important social skills when they choose what to play and who to play with. Through free play, children learn to make and follow rules, control themselves, and respect other’s beliefs and feelings. Young children use may learn through play how to share power, space, and ideas with others. Since play, involves, people as well objects or toys, it facilitate them to deal with people, situation and learn about adult social and occupational roles. Examples include playing various roles during games involving “role plays” (ghar-ghar, teacher, doctor, etc)
4. Emotional Development:
Through play, children learn how to handle their emotions. Children use play as a way to work through fears and anxieties that they cannot express in words. The child gains an understanding about those around him and may become more empathic and less egocentric. When playing with peers, children learn a system of social rules, including ways to control themselves and tolerate their frustrations in a social setting.These are all vital skills to becoming a mature and successful adult. Play allows children to deal with emotional concerns in a safe and non threatening way. Pretend play, fantasy play may be used by children as a way of identifying, rehearsing and managing fears. It allows for catharsis for elimination of pent up energy for example active physical play.
5. Physical Health:
The physical activity involved in play promotes stretching of muscles, taking in more oxygen, enhancing bodily stamina. Even in reaching for a toy, the child develops hand/eye coordination, strength, balance and agility. Child jumps, runs, goes up and down the stairs, bends, sits and stands, bicycles, skips, etc during play. In doing all of these muscular activities, he makes use of his body limb and makes them strong. Overall improving the physical health.
6. Mental Health:
Playful children are happier, better adjusted, more cooperative, and more popular with their peers than those who play less. Thus, children who play are often mentally sound and healthy.
But a distorted face of play could be observed in this growing society. The instinct for imaginative play is shrunk because of urbanization, small family, single child norm, parent are achievement-driven. Schools are more oriented to showing achievement which has killed the natural instinct of play. So as a result children are the only reproducer of facts taught not inclined for the challenge. Most parents think play is only for recreation and can be deferred for another time, hence it’s losing its value in a child’s life. They are ignorant about the development and therapeutic value of play, therefore they consider play as a waste of time. Thus, its high time we all should understand the huge impact “play” plays in the life of a developing child.