Today we have a great guest post from my friend Christine from ChristineKeys.net. She is a firm believer in the importance of play and gives us great reasons why play matters for preschoolers.
I completely agree with her. Don’t get me wrong, I love to encourage children through learning and STEM activities. But children need to be supported in the pursuit of just playing. Dramatic play, sensory play, family play, it all matters.
I firmly believe that play is so important for preschoolers. Why?
There are so many reasons, 5 of which we’re going to discuss today.
Society is pushing our children into a formal learning environment earlier and earlier. In the process, they are losing hours of playtime every week.
There is a mentality that the sooner you start your child in school the better it will prepare them.
While that seems like logical reasoning, recent studies actually prove the opposite.
I am a big advocate of allowing children to be children.
Let them play, let them explore, and let them enjoy the time that they have before formal education is a necessity.
We haven’t enrolled our son in preschool and have no intention of doing so.
Sure, we might do the odd educational activity, but play makes up about 98% of the activity that I encourage him to do.
In a world where educational activities are being encouraged more and more, the way we parent may sound crazy.
In reality, it is not.
These 5 reasons will explain why.
Why Play is So Important for Preschoolers:
1) Play is Great for Motor Development
I really don’t like my children to be sitting down all day. It isn’t healthy for their bodies or their minds.
Play is a brilliant way of developing motor skills and encouraging physical exercise.
Think about the way in which children play. It is often made up of exploring.
Climbing trees, playing tag, doing summersaults.
All of that is a part of the natural play process that most children undertake.
It doesn’t need to be taught or even parent directed.
Children do those things all on their own and in the process they develop great motor development.
There is no need for organised physical exercise because they do enough of it during their play.
Physical play in the early years is proven to help with cognitive and physical development. Not only that, but your child’s confidence will improve as they try new things and learn in the process.
2) Play Teaches Social Skills
One of the biggest things I see being used as a reason to enroll your child in preschool is to develop their social skills.
Now, I’m not saying preschool is bad or wrong, or anything of the sort.
What I do think is wrong is leading parents to believe that they’re doing their child a disservice if they choose not to enroll their child.
Do you know why play is so important for preschoolers?
Because it is a great way for them to develop social skills.
Whether they play with their siblings, the neighbour’s kids, or even by themselves, they’ll practice role play and discourse.
Practice makes perfect which means the more your kids play, the better they’ll become at handling social interactions.
3) Play Encourages Imagination
Do you want your child to be creative and have the ability to engage their imagination?
If that is your desire then giving them the option to play is one of the best things you can do.
Through play, children learn to grow and expand their imagination.
It is through playing that children get to practice self-regulation, creativity, self-advocation, and caring towards others.
Through role play, your child can put themselves into the shoes of others and see things from a different perspective.
Imagination is not only good for dreaming, but also for the ability to be less self-centered.
4) Play Allows for Freedom of Expression
Have you ever caught your child off guard when they’re in the middle of imaginary play?
They might look a little embarrassed and ask you to go away.
That’s because play allows your child to express themselves in a way that they might not otherwise feel comfortable doing.
Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul. ~ Friedrich Frobel
This is an immensely helpful tool for parents.
You will be able to more readily see behaviours you might not otherwise while observing your child playing.
It is also great for less verbal children as they’re given the opportunity to express themselves through other means.
Children, without the boundaries of structured activities, will be more able to reveal their thoughts and feelings.
5) Play is the Best Form of Learning
Play is learning. Plain and simple.
As a preschooler, being allowed to learn through play is so important.
If you do choose to incorporate educational activities, the good news is that giving your child time to play will help them learn better in formal settings as well.
Concentration and attention span are known to be improved when children are also allowed to engage in play.
As a mom that has done little to no structured learning activities with my preschooler, I can attest to the effectiveness of play-learning.
My son can count, write the first initial of his name, list off lots of color variations, sight shapes, and sight most of the alphabet.
But, you know what? Even if he couldn’t do all of that, there would be no reason to panic.
In Finland, children only begin school at age 7 and many of them are illiterate at that age.
What is even more shocking is that by high school, they lead the way in comparison to the rest of the world.
Why Play is So Important for Preschoolers: Conclusion
I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong way in this area.
However, I do feel strongly that children should be allowed to play, and play a lot.
We seem to be ‘prepping them for college’ earlier and earlier.
Some children are ready to be pushed academically from an early age, but many are not.
Whichever your child is, you should be able to make choices for them not based off of guilt imposed by a majority view. Instead, you should be able to choose what is best for your preschooler based off of their needs.
Play is so important for preschoolers because it allows them to learn in such a natural and effortless way.
It is a beautiful thing to witness.
Here is more for you to check out!