Why Play Is Crucial For Shaping Young Minds

Jun 5, 2020

Playing is one of the most important ways children gain essential skills to succeed later in life. Here are four big ways play is crucial in shaping young minds.

boy running through water sprinkler

These days, we put a lot of emphasis on learning and education — often to the detriment of fun and play. 

But playing is a huge part of a child’s development. Play is never “just” play, so don’t feel bad if your kids are having a break from homeschooling to play outside — or if you have a high level of play in your homeschooling schedule when other moms seem to be sticking to a strict lesson plan.

Playing is one of the most important ways in which young children gain essential skills and knowledge to succeed later in life.

Here are four big reasons why play is crucial for shaping young minds:

Play helps kids to learn about the world

Children play to make sense of the world. Playing — including environment, interactions, and objects — has a big impact on how kids learn about, understand, and experience the world around them.

Play is the vehicle through which kids acquire knowledge and skills, whether this is through solitary play or play with others. Kids don’t necessarily think “what am I going to learn from this playing activity?” but their playing does create powerful learning opportunities.

It gives them a chance to try out different ideas and options and see how they work, whether this is through something like stacking building blocks to create towers, or seeing how different color paints mix to form a new color.

These experiments can be frustrating to your child if they don’t go right the first time, but they give children the opportunity to revisit the challenge and revise their hypotheses until they get it right or achieve the desired result. This repetition, practicing of skills, and testing out possible outcomes leads to deeper learning.

As a parent, there are all sorts of things you can do to enrich your child’s learning experience. Providing them with new scenarios, playing activities and challenging tasks will provide them with valuable learning opportunities.

Play boosts confidence & self-esteem

You might not think that something as simple as playing has the power to boost a small child’s confidence, but it really does — it provides a safe space for kids to experiment and express themselves. It also helps kids to build confidence by taking the lead in play, by taking ownership and making decisions during a playing session.

There are a few ways you can provide this confidence-boosting opportunity for kids. A “make and play” kids subscription box like Sago Mini Box is perfect for encouraging child-led play; each box provides an exciting project where your child is given ownership over the learning and playing process (with a teeny bit of guidance, of course!).

Completing tasks, thinking creatively, trialing real life scenarios, and exploring different concepts — all without the fear of repercussions or judgment — is super important. It means that children can test out ideas and make mistakes — and most importantly, learn from them.

This works two-fold: kids build up their confidence and self-esteem through getting things right and risks paying off when they overcome a challenge and are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. And secondly, when their risks don’t pay off and things do go wrong in play (even if this is as simple as a tower being knocked down or falling off a climbing frame), they learn resilience and problem-solving.

Play allows for experiments through trial and error, which is incredibly valuable as a small child learning more about the world every day. It helps kids at the start of their journey to think critically and develop flexibility — crucial for young minds.

Play encourages creativity & expression

Playing encourages creativity, which is crucial for shaping young minds — it provides a safe space for children to explore their own creativity, express their ideas, and exercise their imagination.

If your child doesn’t have siblings, and lock-down measures mean that they aren’t able to play with kids outside of your household, then you might worry that playing on their own won’t be as beneficial for them.

This isn’t the case at all; solitary play encourages creativity and promotes imagination as kids figure out how to amuse themselves. Likewise, guided play — such as arts and crafts activities — can also encourage creative thinking and spark curiosity.

Pretend play — which is sometimes called “symbolic” or “dramatic” play — is also beneficial for stimulating the imagination and promoting creative thinking. This could be things like playing house or doctors and nurses. When your child engages in pretend play like this and takes on a role, they’re exploring and nurturing their own imagination, which is linked to intellectual development.

This creativity helps children to explore their own emotions and feelings, personal likes and dislikes, and learn how to express themselves clearly. And by putting themselves into different roles and scenarios, kids can develop their empathy skills — learning how to see life from a different perspective and how someone else might feel or act.

Play helps develop social skills

Play is a great opportunity for children to develop social skills and how to interact with others. Play teaches kids listening, collaborating, and communicating skills — all in a setting where this means something to them. It puts these important qualities into perspective for a small child: if things go well, play is fun. If they don’t, it’s probably going to end in tears.

Playing with others teaches kids all about sharing, compromise, and conflict resolution. At home, this could be with siblings, parents, or other members of the household. Whoever it is, kids have to listen to what the person they are playing with wants, as well as effectively communicating what they want or their ideas back.

Of course (as you probably already know), siblings don’t always see eye to eye, and sharing can be a challenge. Learning how to work together to find a compromise is a valuable skill that will serve kids well in their adult lives too (as well as making your life as a mom easier!).

And not only does play teach children how to socially interact with others, but it also helps them emotionally understand and empathize with others better, which will help them to build stronger relationships in the future.

Play is crucial for shaping young minds — for many different reasons. The best thing you can do as a parent is to encourage play as part of your homeschooling routine and provide lots of opportunities for different types of play, whether it’s guided play, pretend play, or free play.

Try to strike a balance; providing your child with crafting activities and set tasks is great, but give them plenty of chances to let loose with their own imaginations. Most of all, believe in the power of play — it’s more than just a bit of fun!

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1 comment

  1. When my kids were young, I gave them plenty of time to play, which enhanced their creativity even in later years.


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