Play Is Serious Business For Children's Intelligence

Here is one of many articles The Creativity Institute has reviewed and reprinted on nurturing and boosting creativity in children. Among the articles you'll find on this site are those that demonstrate the importance of creative environments at early ages and the power of the right educational toys.

by Jon Weaver

Too many parents consider play as simply a means of diverting and distracting their children. Playthings are often seen as a means of keeping children happy, rewarding them, keeping them out of mischief, and giving parents free time.

Not often enough do parents think of play and toys as fundamental aspects of a child's education, as a means through which children learn to understand the world around them, and as the primary method by which children acquire many basic skills.

Parents can help make their children's play stimulating by doing three things.

First, they can adopt an attitude of conscious, deliberate planning in which play is regarded as one of the most important aspects of their children's environment.

Second, they can see to it that their children are provided with the kinds of toys and playthings that will help develop the widest possible varieties of skills and abilities.

Third, they can assume a direct, participating role in their children's play.

Planning a child's play does not mean planning each activity for every moment of the child's playtime. On the contrary, children should have maximum independence in choosing their own activities. And, within the limits of the daily routine of the home, a child should also choose the time for their activities, as well as the duration of each. Good planning makes sure that play is as varied and stimulating as possible.

A child should play at different times, with friends, with parents, and by themselves. This play should include, within a period of about a month, all or most of the following types of activities, each geared to the age level of the child.

Here are 5 of them:

#1. Games

Games are perhaps the most basic of all forms of play. From peek-a-boo to chess, from pat-a-cake to baseball, games occupy a central role in the lives of most children from infancy to adolescence. Games may be physical or mental. In general they involve the development of skills, although some lead to the acquisition of information.

#2. Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafts give children many opportunities to express their desire to make things. Crayons, paints, clay, construction paper, scissors and paste, wood, leather, felt, and cardboard are among the materials that help children develop their creative imaginative, and aesthetic abilities. Arts and crafts also develop skills in manipulation, perception, and analysis.

#3. Construction Play

Construction play involves assembling objects from what are usually prefabricated parts. It is less creative than arts and crafts, but is also useful in developing many skills. Putting together a set of railroad tracks and trains is a form of construction play, as is play with erector sets, Tinker toys, blocks and the like.

#4. Projective Play

Protective play is play in which a child adds dramatic and emotional meaning to activities with representative toys-dolls, trucks, soldiers, homemaking sets, and doctor kits. Its great value lies in the role-playing done by the child rather than in the development of specific skills.

#5. Hobbies

Hobbies that cannot be otherwise classified will generally fall under the heading of collecting activities. Collecting stamps, coins, rocks and minerals, butterflies and insects, sea shells and leaves are all common and popular hobbies. While some help in the development of certain skills, their greatest value is in the considerable knowledge a child can acquire in pursuing them.

Most play can be classified in one of these five groups, and, ideally, play should include all of these types. Also, as skills develop, the activities should move to a higher, more mature level.

However, a child does not automatically vary his play or develop in it. This is where the parent's planning comes in -- continually making the child aware of the broad opportunities available to him in play; initiating certain activities during playtime; making suggestions when the child needs and wants them; buying toys that will, in themselves, lead to new pursuits; stimulating new interests and ideas in any of a variety of ways. The parent should not manage the child's play, but should try to nudge it in the right directions.

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