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children playing

Children Learn Important Skills Through Play

Parents often view playtime with their children as relationship-building and leisure time. While this is true, the benefits of play are more extensive. Through play, children develop important cognitive and social skills. As parents, we can direct our children to learn and support skill building by engaging in different types of play.

Play can increase attention and improve children’s ability to concentrate.

  • Independent play – This type of play helps children improve their ability to focus and leads to increased attention span. Choosing a set time of about an hour for independent playtime is ideal. Providing age-appropriate toys and books, while you supervise from afar, offers a great opportunity for your child to independently entertain him or herself with the items provided.
  • Creative Arts & Crafts – Regularly working on a creative project or craft increases attention span. Examples of great activities are finger paints, moulding clay figures, drawing and sculpture. These are all great projects that require attention and concentration… and practice makes perfect!
  • Board Games – Through this play, children develop many skills such as strategizing, formulating answers and solutions, taking turns, waiting for a turn, negotiating, accepting the possibility of winning or losing, and communicating with other players.
  • Puzzles – Puzzles provide a good cognitive exercise as they require focus to search and fit pieces together to create a finished product. Selecting puzzles of interest and actively engaging with your child are great motivators that can draw your child to eagerly participate.
  • Memory Games – Games, such as card matching or repeating a sequence of visuals, motivate children to intensely concentrate and focus on the activity with hopes of mastering the game.

Play helps to develop social skills.

  • Pretend play and role play provide the opportunity for children to develop important social skills by assuming the role of other people and characters and developing pretense dialogue. Children are able to realize multiple views and develop empathy for the perspectives of others. Their dialogues resemble real life dialogues and can mimic real life situations providing a safe way to explore different situations from the safety of pretense. This play also offers the opportunity to learn to control impulsivity and to cooperate with others. Through pretend play, children work out ways to develop relationships with people while learning about sharing, caring for others, and providing help and receiving help from others. Pretend play gives children a safe place to practice these skills, which is great preparatory practice for when similar social situations arise for the child within his or her school environment or community.
    So, it’s an excellent idea to shut down everyone’s screens and get together for a pretend magic carpet ride, a cup of pretend tea with a princess, or gather around a board game, take part in the creation of a sculpture or the painting of a mural. Play is a great way for us to bond with one another and teach our kids important life skills. Play is an important part of what family is all about.

Rasha Hasanen is a Family Support Worker with the Zero2Six program, a joint initiative of Carizon and Lutherwood.