When I was a child, play was my
profession and all-consuming pastime. In those
days, no one analyzed it's value to my development...it
was simply childhood. Today, experts acknowledge
the impact of imagination and creativity on many
important aspects of a child's early emotional, social
and intellectual growth.
At first glance, the newest trend of
introducing formal learning to babies still in diapers
appears to be a good way to charge past the late
bloomers and give your child a foot up in our highly
competitive society. But this early and prolonged
pressure, void of frivolity, could lead to an inability
to handle all facets of that competition...including
rejection and failure. Without the inclusion of
play during your child's development, it is possible, as
believed by some experts, that mental burnout could set
in before the age of twenty-five.
A well-rounded child needs to play.
Think back to when you were young. If you enjoyed
hosting a tea party, you were learning life lessons
while you filled the cups and passed the cookies.
Not only were you sharing with your friends, (either
real or imaginary) but you were developing your social
skills by mimicking "Alice in Wonderland" or your Mom.
You were acquiring grace, poise and generosity without
even realizing it.
Learning through exploration and
imitation is a child's innate talent. Parents
should strive to introduce new skills and lessons
through play as a child grows. Remember, your son
or daughter will not learn all they need to know from
other children. They require your time and loving
play to develop emotional balance that will carry and
serve them throughout life.
By participating in your child's play, you not only have
fun, but you also nurture and encourage social and
language skills. Many of these activities, basic
flashcards for example, will help to prepare him/her for
school. Hands-on play
helps to refine listening, reasoning and motor skills. Multi-sensory
activities, such as an early introduction to music, will
develop the skill of combining touch, sight and sound
into one resulting response.
Aside from the obvious educational benefit of play, the
physical activity it often inspires is a tremendous plus
in a society troubled by the growing rate of obesity in
children. Way back when, the school day included
an hour of recess. This unfortunate dismissal of
such an important addition to physical activity and play
has contributed to the ongoing and growing problem of a
generation of couch potatoes. As their parent, you
can organize outdoor games, rainy day activities and
physical challenges that will help to nurture and co-ordinate the sensory-motor development of
Many parents regret their financial inability to provide
all of the latest learning gadgets for their child.
They fear their son or daughter will never catch up.
The truth is, your child will develop his/her language
skills much faster if you simply spend time talking,
singing or reading to him/her. Begin their
fascination with math by counting objects. Count
the cars on the road, count the jelly beans at Easter,
count anything and everything they are interested in.
Inject the concept of comparison, such as short and
long, big and small or more and less. It doesn't
take money to get your child off to a great start...it
only takes your dedication and love.
One thing to keep in mind...as your child's interests
develop, allow them to explore what excites them....not
you. This will promote a passion for learning and
give wings to their self-esteem. Step back, watch
and listen to gain insight about your child. Your
reward will be a loving, healthy, long-lasting
relationship between you and your child. And don't forget to play!