Play, Play, Play, It Goes a Long, Long Way..21 January 2019
Play is innate – we were all children once “but only few … remember it” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Petit Prince). Can you relate?
If you consider your child’s social, language and cognitive development…play has to be the most satisfying experience for children, especially when it allows them to explore, imagine, and engage in and lead less dictated and more self-initiated play structures. Repeat: Less dictated, more self-initiated! Who better than kids can create that type of an environment?
Play in the context of a social setting is an essential part of developing children’s social skills at an early age. It helps them with their emotion regulation as well as their language development. Children typically do not like to share – but with peers, they are somewhat obliged to learn the rules of the ‘social’ game. Given their need to solve problems and get their needs met, social interactions can be considered key in your child’s language development. They need to figure out how to get along with others and to be open to suggestions to sharing, for example. With their dominant egocentric selves, they tend to be rather selfish, so social settings allow them to give and take and maneuver their ways learning how to adapt emotionally.
Language development goes hand in hand with the development of their social skills. They converse, play, create and re-create stories and engage in dramatic play which in fact, is the most natural nurturer of language and communication skill development. This of course ties in with your child’s cognitive development. But how??
Simply, play allows children to imagine, problem solve, think symbolically and regulate emotions! Play is a natural stimulant for the brain.
By the time children are 3-4 years of age, the right brain develops. The left brain, on the other hand, doesn’t fully come online until children are approximately 7 years old; this means that the first seven years are considered to be a critical period in your child’s development.
The story of the LEFT brain and the RIGHT brain. Once upon a time…the left brain became home to language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time. It became the logical, calculating, planning part of us keeping us anchored in the pragmatic world, both past and future. The left brain became home to outcomes – product.
The right brain on the other hand, was where empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity settled…its motto: Wonder, dream, connect and come alive. Through the right brain we dwell in the space of absolute present. The right brain became the center of process—the journey vs. destination.
So how can we nurture the right brain? Through play of course! Here are a few tips to live by:
Do not dictate your child’s creativity…
As parents we should worry less about trying to impose upon our children the expectations of the ‘genius’ child. The more we impose, the more we neglect our children’s natural sense of creativity, problem solving, and imagining. This means, there is no right or wrong to play! The rule of play is, there are no rules…and no directions. Our role as parents is simply to guide our children to help them attain skills that will ease and facilitate their constant transitions, adaptations, and ultimately, survival in the fast moving, real world.
It’s all about the journey…not the product.
We need to start thinking about children’s skill development as a long-term developmental process rather than immediate, short term outcomes. For example, if we push, impose or force literacy and numeracy on children before age seven, we may cause more harm than good to their developing brains. Since they are developmentally NOT yet ready, any expectation outside of their developmental abilities will lead to their ‘failure’ (as seen by the adults) which may or will lead your child to believe themselves to be incapable and lead them to lose their natural desire to learn. But if we allow the child to socialize, to explore, to discover, to ask questions…their cognitive development (language, literacy, numeracy) will be a more natural process that suits their own developmental needs which will in turn lead to a smoother transition to the grand academic expectations.
Let your child play – but pause for a few minutes and think…how can I make my child’s learning intentional. Play isn’t simply a pass time, nor is it random. It is an incredible learning opportunity. So give your child the opportunities to explore the unexplored…any environment your child is in could be a potential learning experience, if you focus on making it intentional. Engage with them in role play – be animated – let them get messy - sit with them – laugh with them - and try to understand what your child is trying to learn and how s/he is making sense of the world and just… play.
Being bored is okay!
Yes, you heard right. Being bored is what allows children to get desperately creative, if only to avoid being bored. They can turn the environment into their playground. Just watch and learn!!
Dearest mums! The right brain is the playground, or at least, it connects us to it. Let your child learn in this most natural state through their unstructured play, and all things that come with that, such as doodling, curiosity, wonder and imagination. A child who has a healthy right brain can better use their left brain tools in positive ways. Simply put, the process will lead to successful product.