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Through pretend play: Children learn about themselves and the world. Dramatic play experiences are some of the first ways children learn about their likes and dislikes, their interests, and their abilities. Just watch children playing with dolls to see examples of this. Dolls often become versions of the child himself and are a safe way for children to express new ideas and feelings. Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues.
Have you ever witnessed children pretending to visit the doctor? One child dutifully holds the mock stethoscope as the others line up for a check-up. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way. Children often use pretend play to work out more personal challenging life events too, whether it is coping with an illness in the family, the absence of a parent or divorce, or a house fire.
Why play matters
Children develop important complex social and higher order thinking skills. Pretend play is much more than simple play activities; it requires advanced thinking strategies, communication, and social skills. Children cultivate social and emotional intelligence. How we interact with others is key to our lifelong success and happiness.
How Do Children Play? | Heart-Mind Online
Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate emotions, negotiate and take turns, and engage in a long-term activity that is mutually beneficial are no easy tasks. There is no substitute for creative and imaginative play when it comes to teaching and enhancing these abilities in children. Children synthesize knowledge and skills. Pretend play is an ideal way to do this.
They sort by attributes as they group similar foods in sections of the store, use math concepts to tabulate amounts as they determine prices and calculate grocery bills, use writing to communicate by making signs, experiment with shapes and weights as they organize the store, work collaboratively as they assign roles and play together, and much more.
Use stories: Invite your children to recreate a favorite story or take it further and add their own twist. It needs to be about doing things with them that they like. They might find unusual ways of doing things - for a toddler, building blocks aren't just for making towers, and paint can be used without a brush! Show them how things work, but if they want to experiment, let them. Children learn through all their senses through taste, touch, vision, hearing and smelling.
They will watch those around them and copy language and behaviour. Don't push your child too hard.
Children develop in their own ways and in their own time. Try not to compare them to other children. You can also encourage reading, by reading to and with them. Look at the pictures together; this will help younger children make sense of the words. It's also good to talk to them a lot, about everyday things while you are cooking or cleaning. This will give you a chance to teach them how things work and they will be able to ask you questions.
Forms of Play
Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self expression. Whilst it is very important that children play with their peers and are given opportunities for unstructured play, children who also play with a loved adult can benefit greatly — the benefits of having fun together cannot be underestimated! Adults have a role within the play by making time and space available with the relevant resources. Think about creating play ideas that help support and extend learning and development.
Children make sense of the world in which they live by acting out situations before they happen and by copying what they see around them. Most children are naturally imaginative and will happily talk away to someone on their toy phone or drive the sofa to the shops, and this creativity should be actively encouraged! Encouraging your young child to explore outdoor play is extremely beneficial and necessary for their development. Outdoor play helps them to learn lots about the everchanging environment and gives them the opportunity to use their whole body and develop their gross motor skills.
It can meet their multi-sensory needs and can give them a love for the outdoors. Whether it is messy play, creative or role play, it is an essential part of learning.
Froebel Trust have produced an inormative pamphlet talking about outdoor play with lots of ideas and advice. Click here to download this. We look at ways to support your toddler's development, helping them to be more resilient and emotionally aware through playing games and getting out and about for valuable social and learning experiences.
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