Every Pre-Primary school teacher will admit that one of the most important aspects of a young child's education is playtime. It is baffling to think that there are parents out there who are wholly concerned with academic achievement and believe that even 2 hours of playtime at school is more than enough. This is most certainly not true! Playtime is an integral part of a child's development and can benefit them in a myriad of ways.
Children gain confidence through play. They have the opportunity to pick and choose the toys or materials that they have some skill or interest over; they are, at that moment, experiencing control of their world. They are comfortable with these toys and can make things happen, or change them according to their will. Their play is successful and so their confidence, competence and self esteem are enhanced.
Through constant and repetitive play time at school, children are able to practice both mental and physical skills. Because almost every skill is a new one for the child, repetition is actually a stimulating and enjoyable experience. Each time they play/practice, their skills improve and this can lead to new and more elaborate skills. The interest therefore remains high and the child remains stimulated, confident and content. Practicing in play time does not only involve learning motor skills such as riding a tricycle for instance; when kids sing songs they love over and over again, they are also learning and mastering linguistic and mental skills.
It's a well known observation that young children don't really play easily with their peers, not for a number of years. Sooner or later however, they will start to watch others at play, then attempt to play in the same manner, then join in the fun! These experiences are crucial to the development of their social skills - their ability to communicate, share, cooperate, negotiate and problem solve.
Playtime should be encouraged to carry on at home. In their own, safe environment, the playing child will experiment with imaginative situations, role playing, perhaps trying out adult roles, without any real consequences. They will develop a strong sense of self and allow themselves the freedom to play uninhibited by some of the social aspects of school. Playtime at home builds imagination and creativity and also keeps them away from passive activities like watching tv.
Through play, children gather and process vital information, learning how to interact with the world at large. Even the youngest child, through the process of exploration by smelling, feeling, touching, tasting, looking and listening, will learn quickly how to manipulate objects, situations and his environment. Playing allows for all the senses to be stimulated.
Child psychologists often observe troubled children at play to try to understand what the root of the problem may be. Sometimes through vigorous physical play, children can demonstrate their fears. Children can't always easily put in words what they're feeling - whether they're frustrated or angry, joyful or hurt. Seeing what they do and how they react while they play will give you an indication of what they may be going through.
Children clearly benefit from playtime and we should encourage our children to play whenever they can for as long as they can. In this world of information overload, the least we can do for our children is let them develop their senses and skills through the fun, physical and mental activities that playtime provides.