Recent preschool trends have focused primarily on academic performance, with many parents as well as teachers believing that play is a superfluous activity that should take a back seat to academics. However, play is actually an integral component of childhood development. Following are five reasons why play should be a regular part of your child's preschool experience.
1. Play Helps Children Learn Problem-Solving Skills
Interaction with other children in supervised play settings helps them develop important negotiation and problem-solving skills. It teaches them to be flexible thinkers who understand that there is usually more than one right answer to a variety of questions and situations, which is essential to fostering understanding and respect for other points of view. It can also teach them the value of brainstorming within a group context by demonstrating how many problems can be solved using the input of several different people. It also helps familiarize them with the steps involved in solving a problem, such as identifying the issue, discussing various possible solutions, and coming to a resolution.
2. Play Helps Preschoolers Develop Social Skills
Today's smaller families often mean that children don't get the opportunities of their counterparts of the past to develop and maintain positive social relationships with peers. Structured play under the supervision of an experienced childhood education professional can help children learn about sharing, cooperation, empathy, and teamwork. They learn how to regulate their emotions and to interpret the emotions of their peers. Role-playing games also help children learn to see the world through the eyes of others and to experiment with a variety of identities.
3. Play Is Important for Physical Development
Physical play is important for the development of muscles, coordination, and both large and small motor skills. Sports that promote whole-body activity, for instance, cultivate large motor skills such as running, kicking, and throwing, while playing with building blocks help develop small motor skills such as good hand-to-eye coordination and dexterity. Climbing on monkey bars results in stronger muscles, while skipping rope provides an aerobic workout that also serves to improve balance. Children who do not receive enough exercise may become irritable and cranky as a result. Studies have shown that the majority of preschoolers do not get enough exercise—concerned parents should look for preschools that include a significant amount of physical education in their curricula.
4. Play Promotes Creativity
Imaginative play is an essential part of the development of creative minds and allows them to express themselves in a positive and satisfying manner. Early childhood experiences with creativity in nonjudgmental and open learning environments promote positive emotional health, give kids a great way to try out new ideas, and may even serve as the foundation of creative careers as an adult. Creative play also reinforces a child's positive sense of self by emphasizing his or her uniqueness. The creative play choices of individual children can also provide parents and teachers see indications of what the child is thinking or feeling.
5. Play Helps Children Navigate Their Emotions
Children often find positive and useful ways to express and make sense of their emotions through play. For instance, if a preschooler has a new little brother or sister, he or she may act out conflicting feelings about sharing parents with their new brother or sister. Children may explore various ways of dealing with situations they don't quite grasp or confronting childhood fears in a safe environment. For instance, children who are afraid of monsters under the bed at night might choose to create a play scenario where they are getting the best of the monsters.
Find a preschool in your area through a website like http://www.kidscountry.net and see what their philosophy is for children's play.