According to Ali Ingersoll of ABC news, 90 percent of development happens during the first five years of our lives. The more children are exposed to quality care and learning during their early stages, the better the child’s cognitive skills are in his, or her, later educational years. However our focus on educational “needs” may be misconstrued. More and more studies show that early childhood education should be balanced between work and play. Focusing solely on the school work, and ignoring emotional and physical development may be indeed missing the mark for childhood development.
Lynn Pullano, CEO of Child Care Resource Network believes that child development depends largely on playtime as much as “work time” Playtime brings with it an array of benefits for child development. “At those earliest ages, we’re really missing the mark if we’re not engaging the child physically as well as emotionally and mentally in learning. We do have to be careful not to expect from children things beyond their age,” says Pullano. Children must be allowed to use their imaginations and creative abilities. Playtime in certain activities can provide just the right amount of frustration and experience needed to develop cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and task management.
So, what kind of skills are children learning during playtime? For starters, playtime stirs motor skill development. This includes better hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, and muscle development which are used in physical activity. Playtime also allows for social learning. Cooperative play where children play amongst each other helps develop important social skills such as decision making, communication, negotiation, and conflict management. Of course, cognitive skills such as creative thinking, as well as problem solving, are also put into practice in cooperative play.
According to the Urban Child Institute, play also encourages language development. “Parents can encourage language development during play by speaking in longer sentences and introducing new vocabulary to describe play and toys.”
If you found this read useful, and would like to read more on children’s education and development, check out my blog here. Thanks for reading!