When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, I just played, please don’t misunderstand me. For you see, I am learning as I play. I am learning to be successful in my work. Today I am a child and my work is play.” (Wadley in Anderson-McNamee & Bailey, 2010).
Many adults find it very difficult to understand the imperative function of play in children’s development. It is essential to recognize that in order to nurture children’s development, we need to support children in their play. It is necessary to offer sufficient time and safe space for “free-flow play” where children are free to carry on their activities without being interrupted or without an adult expectation of the final product of play. Providing children with access to outdoor facilities such as a park, playground or local woods gives them the opportunity to experience a wide range of unique sensorial stimuli, crucial in making sense of the surrounding world.
Holistic development underpins the nurturing role of play. In our first issue of the Woodentots Newspaper we showed you how to put together a discovery basket. The sensorial experience provided in infancy has a vital impact on brain development and cognition. The early involvement in exploratory play stimulates the growth of essential connections between the neurons, which begins development of the complex synaptic network.
Every aspect of Early Years progress is linked within play. For example, Physical and manipulative play helps the children to gain physical confidence, whilst imaginative play gives space to experiment with role play. Play starts in infancy and carries on through our life, helping us to learn how to socialize and relate to other people, how to solve problems and find solutions. Most importantly, play gives us moments of fun and laughter, and helps us to relax.
Play is that unique space where everyone can become someone else, maybe someone bigger, stronger, or more capable and in some cases, we are able to carry that confidence into other parts of our life.
“In play a child is always above his age and behaviour. In play he is a head taller than himself.” – Lev Vygotsky