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10 reasons why play is important

26 Jul 2010

Play is integral to the acquisition and development of communication skills in children. Because of its importance, TTYB has brought together the top 10 reasons why we think play is important.

There’s a lot happening during playtime. Little ones are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down, and more. They are learning key scientific concepts, such as what sinks and floats; mathematical concepts, including how to balance blocks to build a tower; and literacy skills, such as trying out new vocabulary or storytelling skills as children “act out” different roles. And when your children play with you, they are also learning — that they are loved and important and that they are fun to be around. These social-emotional skills give them the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to continue building loving and supportive relationships all their lives." Zero to Three Journal

1. Play lays the foundation for literacy. Through play children learn to make and practise new sounds. They try out new vocabulary, on their own or with friends, and exercise their imagination through storytelling.

2. Play is learning. Play nurtures development and fulfils a baby’s inborn need to learn. Play takes many forms, from shaking a rattle to peek-a-boo to hide-and-seek. Play can be done by a child alone, with another child, in a group or with an adult.

3. Play encourages adults to communicate with the children in their lives. Adults support play by giving children the opportunity to engage in play, by knowing when not to intervene, and by knowing when to intervene.

4. Play gives children the chance to be spontaneous. You may think your child should be rolling the truck on the ground but that doesn’t mean that truck is not equally useful as a stacking toy.

5. Play gives children choice. Having enough toys or activities to choose from will allow children to express themselves.

6. Play gives children space. To practise physical movement, balance and to test their own limits.

7. Play gives adults the chance to learn how to play again. One of the most challenging parts of play is incorporating yourself in it.

8. Play allows adults to learn their child’s body language. Knowing when you should incorporate yourself in your child’s play is key.

9. Play teaches adults patience and understanding.  If you do choose to join in your child’s play make sure that you do not try to take it over and force incorporation of your ultimate learning objectives into their play. Structured adult-led activities have their time and place but remember to allow for time for children to control and decide their own play.

10. Play is fun. Learning to play well, both by themselves and with others, sets children up to be contented and sociable.

For tips on playing and talking with your child read our Playing with your baby and Playing and Talking resources.

For information on aspects of play and how they can manifest themselves see Play is what I do or the information section of our key topics page. We also have information on rough and tumble play and types of toy suggestions for age groups.

Tags: Early Years, Early years sector, Talk To Your Baby

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
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