When you think of a baby or child, what is it that they want to do most? They want to play! Babies are born ready to learn, they want to explore, touch, taste, smell, poke, pound, and throw everything they can get their hands on. This is learning and this is what their developing brain needs.
Through “hands on” experiences young children are learning about their environment and how things work. Just realize that everything is new to them! They need to use all of their senses and try things out in various ways. Through play children find out they can make things happen and they have an effect on their world!
You will also see children do the same actions repeatedly. Through repetition the brain verifies that what it is experiencing is true. Picture a child in a high chair with a ball. After learning about the ball through putting it in their mouth, the child will likely throw it on the floor. He will lean over and watch the ball bounce and roll. He will motion to have an adult give him the ball again. He needs to throw the ball again so his brain can see that it will bounce and roll again. After he has had enough food to eat, he may throw any extra food on the floor to see if it bounces and rolls like the ball did. He is learning about the similarities and differences between all the interesting things he comes in contact with everyday. His brain is making connections through all of these experiences.
To create optimal learning these connections need to be made through interactions with real objects. He will not learn how a ball bounces and rolls if he only sees a picture of it on a flash card. He also will not know how a ball feels by watching a ball on a video or television show. When children are watching videos or tv this is a missed opportunity for real learning and strong connections being made in the brain.
Play also provides the opportunity for the development of a child’s muscles. Wiring in a child’s brain takes place through the repeated movements of physical activities. When children are watching television or even DVD’s that are said to promote learning, children are actually not learning as much as they could if they were playing instead. Scientific research demonstrates interaction creates much more brain activity than observing.
Play is natural. It is what children want to do. (It is actually what adults love to do as well) It is how our brain learns best and it is where learning begins. Play is essential to healthy and overall development.
It is necessary also to not only have play take place at home, but children need “hands on” learning and physical activity opportunities at school also. Share and promote the need and benefits of play. And have lots fun!
I invite you to share any play ideas or additional information on this topic . We can all benefit from your comments.
For play ideas go to www.braininsightsonline.com the unique and easy to use brain activity packets! Additional posts on play can be found on this site here.