Why Play Matters In The Life Of Your Child
“When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’ Please don’t misunderstand me. For you see, I am learning as I play. I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work. Today I am a child and my work is play.” Anita Wadley, 1974.
For the child, play is their work. Play is essential to the child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Play is the way that our children communicate. Oftentimes, they do not have the vocabulary or ability to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Play is the medium through which children communicate and engage with the world. Gary Landreth explains, “toys are used like words by children, and play is their language.” After September 11, 2001, we saw adults verbally share their experiences with others as a means of healing. First responders who assisted with children observed that children did not talk, but in their play would build large buildings and fly airplanes into them. Play was the child’s way of processing the event and helped to facilitate healing.
As parents, you can support your relationship with your child by setting aside time each day to play with them! Put away cell phones, turn off the television, and take time to focus solely on your child. You will learn more about how your child views themselves and the world around them in those brief moments through observation of their play. Get on the floor with your child and allow them to lead you into their world. Play is a unique time when children feel in control and have a sense of power in how their play evolves. This is a wonderful time to strengthen the parent-child relationship as it is a time uniquely set aside for the parent to solely focus on the child’s experience and emotions. Not only will parents gain benefit from this time with their child, they may end up having a little fun themselves!