The Business of Play

By Dr.Geraldine Macdonald, R.N. EdD on April 14, 2008
Children just seem to know right from the beginning that play is central to their growth and learning. Play is not a waste of time. It is the central business of childhood. Play is good for children. And the best part is that play is its own reward. Play that a child chooses on her own is the best kind of play. It’s important that parents provide an environment that encourages play, but not direct their kids during playtime.and aware when they play. Skipping stones is active play, even though it may seem aimless to adults. Watching television or videos, however, is not play (even when it’s educational). Many Canadian children spend too much time passively watching television. A child’s sensorymotorskills develop when she plays. By thetime they are five, most children in North America can throw and kick a ball, and many can ride a bike. They learn the gross and fine motor skills needed to do these advanced activities through their
play in early life. Play starts with babies, who explore their bodies: they suck their fingers, wiggle their toes, roll around, crawl, walk andrun. As children, they play games such as hideand- seek, jump rope, tag, T-ball, and games they make up on their own and with their friends. Young children (especially boys), enjoy roughand- tumble play, such as chasing each other, rolling around on the ground, climbing slides and flying through the air on swings. Taking your child to the local park is a valuable experience because parks offer safe, challenging gross-motor skills activities. Watching other children play provides your child with role modelling.
Remember not to lead your children in their play. Just follow them around thepark, make sure they are safe, push them on the swings if they want you to, and
take them home when they are ready. Play develops creativity. It also givesyour child the chance to socialize, and providesyour child a safe, imaginary world where she can work out her feelings. Young children tend to play in a more solitary way; they concentrate on their own world and seem to be unaware of other children. Not to worry, older children also play alone sometimes. Onlooker play and parallel play is when children watch other hildren playing, and when hey play with similar toys ide other children, but ot with them. Associative play and co-operative play is when children interact with each other. This creates new chances for learning. Dramatic play is a more sophisticated form of play. This is usually seen in older children when they create imaginary worlds together, such as playing ‘house,’ ‘school’ or ‘dress up’. All types of play are important. Children play in each different way during childhood. Gender affects play. Boys and girls play in different ways. By age two, boys tend to play with boys, in larger groups, in energetic, competitive games. Girls tend to play with other girls, in groups of twoor three, in more co-operative ways. They tend to play games that include turn-taking, such as jumping rope. As a parent, try to trust your child’s wisdom. Remember that you don’t have to teach your children how to play. They already know how! BFY Geraldine (Jody) Macdonald, RN, EdD, Chair, Undergraduate Program, University of Toronto, Faculty of  Nursing.Play also helps your child’s cognitive development. (Cognition means consciously understanding something). Drawing, for example, develops fine motor skills, as well as a sense of order and design. In the first year, children begin scribbling and proudly showing their creations. Be enthusiastic; paste your child’s 'work' up on the fridge. By the second year, your child will make definite marks and move into symbolic forms. Most two- and three-year-olds begin to draw people by drawing a large circle with two lines for legs. This is found in children of all cultures. It’s known as the universal tadpole.

By Dr.Geraldine Macdonald, R.N. EdD| April 14, 2008

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