The Benefits of Play, Plain and Simple
By Dr. Sally Goldberg
Remember this old saying? “Play is a child’s work, and toys are the tools.” Implicit in this concept is learning, and basic to learning are all the language skills–reading, writing, understanding, and speaking. Here’s the next principle that expands the meaning even further. “The most formed the toy, the least value; and the least form it has, the most value.” That is because little structure creates the need and desire for putting more into the play.
Now here is the practical end of this idea. “Much of the best play for young children comes from toys you make and from simple items like an unbreakable mirror or ball.” Using easily accessible materials from around the house to create a play-and-learn environment provides unending hours of fun. By parents participating in play with their children, they usually enrich it. Strong input, support, and commitment on the part of parents help children learn faster and better. Parent play, which is both natural and responsive, is a great way to speed up language development.
Your child was born with curiosity, and you have the honor, privilege, and fun of nurturing it. Here’s the best part! Most open-ended play is inexpensive. Hunting up house-hold left-overs are always a favorite for what many children love the best–playing creative games like house, school, doctor, restaurant, grocery store, and more! Some of the best toys for toddlers are blocks, building sets, bubbles, dolls (male and female), and objects for sand and water activities. These all provide open-ended experiences. The more the children play freely, the more they want to play. If you had to find two words to describe the essence of play for young children, they would be “exploration” and “experimentation.” Watching children at “work,” there is no question that early years were meant for the basics of learning and discovery.
Play of all kinds invites fun and friendly communication that is packed with language, and remember language is a key factor in reading success!