Written by Carly Treloar – Occupational Therapist
“Play Is The Highest Form of Research”
Ever heard someone say “Wouldn’t it be great to be a child again!”
Ever wondered what purpose Play holds for a child, a teen or even an adult????
We learn best when we are playing or having fun! Play brings us joy, is vital for problem solving, building relationships and is just as important for our emotional well-being as adults, as it is for children as they grow.
Children engage in the exploration of their surroundings from birth, leading into play based interactions that further develop into the acquisition of social/emotional skills preparing them for the lifelong journey ahead.
Play helps prepare a child’s brain to handle big emotions and unexpected outcomes like tripping over obstacles, losing balance, only to then regain control and move on in a game of tag.
Play is essential for developing social, gross/fine motor, and psychological skills necessary for positive social relations in the early stages of life right through to kindergarten and then onto school.
Occupational Therapists identify play as a means for determining the “Ground Rules” within interactions with peers, like learning to play fair and build trust in your relationships. The primary goals of childhood are to grow, learn, and play.
Play is the basis of a child’s skill development and social behaviours
This is the most basic type of play where your child is free to think, explore with curiosity and move objects in preparation for further play skills development.
When your child plays on their own! This stage is important because your child learns to entertain themselves which builds the pathway to self-sufficiency.
This is when your child observes but does not engage. At this stage of development, your child is still learning the vocabulary of social language and at times it can be challenging for a parent to watch without intervening.
Give your child some time to observe and decide for themselves whether or not they wish to approach, provide opportunities for group activities to make the interactions easier; every child is different, in personality and needs, so if it takes a little longer, this is ok!
This is where two children play side by side but remain in their own worlds. As an Occupational Therapist, this is interesting to watch because I often notice that they are mimicking each others behaviours and actions even though they are not socially interacting. When a child engages in parallel play, they can learn how to take turns or just how to be present in someone else’s space without intrusion.
In this form of play, children still play separately but are involved in what the other child is doing, for example, one child is building a track out of blocks and the other is doing the same in their own space. What then becomes apparent when observing “Associative Play”, is that the two children discuss what they are doing together saying, “What should we build next?” whilst doing their own thing at the same time.
When two or more children have a common goal! This is the exciting time where teamwork begins. Playing board games, participating in team sports in and out of school and increasing social emotional skills setting the stage for social success in the future.
As you can see, play provides opportunities for exploration, development of social skills, building positive behaviours and relations with others; Play helps children develop skills in expressing themselves and to explore new ideas and emotions that arise from new experiences.
Occupational Therapists provide opportunities to explore different types of play in a safe environment aiming to help children develop their social skills, confidence and self-esteem whilst enabling them to participate in the occupation of being a child which is to have fun, make positive friendships and PLAY!!
With that said, this leads me onto the next topic……
What meaning does leisure have on adolescents moving into adulthood? and why do they need so much of it!?
We will have to explore this in the next blog!