Often the term ‘play’ is thrown about in reference to a child’s development without explanation of why it is so crucial. Many Early Years experts believe development, learning and play cannot be separated, working hand in hand, with Lester and Russell (2008) stating that play gives children ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life.’
Play allows students the opportunity to explore, test and build knowledge at their own pace, using problem solving skills and cause and effect. Although at times a child’s play may not convey meaning to an outside observer, for the child they are creating new meaning or exploring concepts unfamiliar to them. For example, a child wearing a superhero cape is demonstrating leadership and negotiation qualities, building a cubby house in the book corner involves design and creativity, creating an ice-cream with playdough shows imagination, structural design and communication skills or playing families is to organise, negotiate and listen to others. Play allows children the opportunity to communicate and negotiate with each other, learning empathy, conflict resolution, resilience and social skills: learning these skills through self-discovery rather than having an adult solve it for them.
Research has also shown the ongoing benefits of play include: enhanced memory skills, greater self-confidence and pride in achievements, language development and self-regulation of behaviour “leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning” (Bodrova & Leong, 2005).
As our society continues to develop and change, we are preparing children for lives and jobs that are currently unknown to us, in a world that is moving closer and closer to an automated workplace. Recently, the World Economic Forum stated that skills that are fostered and enhanced through play such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving will be in high demand, posing the question, ‘do you want your children to get a great job?’ – then let your child play more!
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