It can often seem overwhelming trying to keep up with the many demands in our daily lives, and even more so trying to ensure we provide our children with the best. The best in quality time, the best support, the best in providing for their physical needs, in education and in intervention. With information at our fingertips through search engines and social media, it becomes even more overwhelming to keep up with what the best is. The information provided here is not meant to add to, or create, the sense of feeling overwhelmed, but rather to provide you with reassurance that you are doing your best, and that it is ‘ok just to play’.
One of the best places to start with any attempt to encourage healthy development and giving our children the best, is to allow for plenty of time for our children to play. This is because for children, play is of vital importance in all areas of development. Therefor it is crucial for the child to engage in regular times of structured and unstructured play. The term ‘structured play’ refers to play that is led by the adult, generally a parent or teacher that has planned the play time with a purpose in mind. Unstructured play on the other hand refers to play that is led by the child themselves without the guidance of the adult. Both forms of play are of great benefit. Structured play can be used by the parent to encourage development in many areas, such as using a board game to teach turn taking and communication skills, or using a peg board to help your child to develop fine motor skills and pattern imitation. Structured play can also be used to help our child in an area with which they have difficulty, for example planning an obstacle course that involves crawling and climbing for a child who has difficulty with gross motor skills. Unstructured play in turn allows our children to explore the world around them, to develop their own imaginary worlds, to problem solve, to learn to take initiative and so much more. Both structured and unstructured play allows for parents and children to be creative, to have fun, to learn while enjoying each other and growing closer together as a family.
Often times when children play, it may look like a mere period of fun between times of learning or ‘work’, but play is the child’s work, play is where a child learns to problem solve, to overcome physical and mental challenges. When children play, they develop without realising it, while your child is dressing the doll and talking about the dolly’s mommy, your child is developing language, social skills, emotional skills and coordination. When your child is pushing the car on his road map and telling you about his journey, he is developing his language skills, his social skills, his coordination, his direction skills and his planning skills. When your child is climbing on the monkey bars or swinging, they are learning how to coordinate physical movement, developing gross motor skills, they are creating pathways in their brain for learning new skills, they are learning social skills and communications skills, and they are improving their emotional health. Play is not only how children learn and develop, but it helps them to understand who they are and where they fit in in the world.
Play is not only vital to the social, emotional, cognitive as well as physical development of our children, but also provides opportunities for parents to engage fully with their children. In the words of Margarita Tartakovsky “Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective. Remember that play [in adulthood] is important for all aspects of our lives, including creativity and relationships. Give yourself permission to play every day.” Skidz clever activity boxes aim to help parents and children to play, the programme is not to add more work, but rather to add to and support parents in learning how to play with their child. Skidz provide ideas for structured play for parents and children to learn, to grow and to have fun.
Swan, A (2011) Why children need more unstructured play. http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/07/children-un structured-play.html
Rock, A (2016) What is structured play for young children? https://www.verywell.com/structured-play-2764980
Raising Children Network: Australian Parenting. Why play is important
Tartakovsky, M (2012) The importance of play for adults. Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/
Wallace, K (2015) How your child benefits from play. Baby Centre. http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-your-child-benefits-from-play_64065.bc