The Early Years Matter
Scientific research over the past 30 years has taught us that the most important period of human development is from birth to eight years old. These findings show that in early childhood we learn much faster than later throughout our entire life. For this reason, play is critical to the healthy growth and development of children. As children play, they learn how to think, solve problems, get along with others and develop their physical and emotional skills. But how just “playing” can develop such skills in children?
- Cognitive: Children learn to solve problems (What does this do? Does this puzzle piece fit here?) through play. Children also learn colors, numbers, size and shapes. They have the ability to enhance their memory skills as well as their attention span. Children move on to higher levels of thought as they play in a more stimulating environment.
- Physical skills: Gross motor skills are developed as a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance. Fine motor skills are developed as children handle small toys.
- Emotional skills: Play helps children building self-confidence and esteem, experimenting with various emotions, and releasing emotions from trauma.
- Social skills: Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are all important skills learned in early games. These skills grow as the child plays. As a result, children learn the roles and rules of society.
The Role of Parents
Parents, as first and best playmates, have a crucial role in their children’s play. Joining in children’s play has benefits for children and parents at the same time. Children tend to be more creative when their parents are involved in their play. Playing also gives parents a great opportunity to get to know their child better, have fun, and teach new skills authentically. With the right educational toys, learning through play can even be taken to the next level.