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The Importance Of Play In A Child’s Development

A mentor of mine once said to me that a "child’s job - is to play", I agreed with this simplistic statement, five years later, now older, much wiser and far more experienced, I would still agree with the statement but I would probably say that "most of a child’s developmental needs are met through his/her desire to play".

Why do Children Play?

From an early age, while we are still babies, we play. It starts with sucking a toe or waving our legs and arms in the air. As we develop and grow into children our play becomes more sophisticated, and we start to ride bikes, climb trees and play with fire. By the time we reach our teenage years we are well adjusted young people who are generally able to walk, run, talk, dance, sign, carry out intricate tasks, such as write, type, use a screw driver, and carry out other tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and of course dressing one’s self.

It is through play that children develop essential life skills, they learn how to interact with their peers and with adults, they learn how to choose friends and enemies, they learn how to run around, play team games and sports, they learn to be creative, to adapt and develop new skills, and they learn a whole range of emotions.

Play is child lead and as a play facilitator I can only respond to the needs of the individual child, if you were to visit the play centre that I manage, you would see children playing pool, running around, playing table tennis, playing on the Sega or Play Station, drawing, colouring, making junk models/cards, and a whole range of child directed play opportunities.

As a child I was able to experience many positive and some negative play experiences, each year I made the Christmas cards that I sent, and very often, made presents too. I was able to play with old broken motor cars, light fires, climb tress, ride my bike for 30 miles to see members of my family, and go to playschemes or youth clubs when I wanted. I even did my homework without any arguments.

It has been said that children who are encouraged to express themselves freely through play are more able to adapt and learn new skills and perform better at school.

In conclusion every child needs to be allowed to play, they learn so many skills from playing, and from falling over. Play is essential to every child’s development in that good play experiences as a child turn you into a well balanced grown up and prepare you with the essential life skills needed, to run your home, have children and to enjoy it.

Michael Tombs

Michael Tombs was a local authority play project manager, who had worked as a playworker for six years, he also worked in the voluntary and private sectors facilitating play.


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