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Play refers to any form of activity, which children engage in at free will in order to have fun. In most instances the type of play that children undertake results from intrinsic motivation without the expectation of an external reward. Similarly, children manage the plays by determining how to conduct the play activity.
Therefore, play is a non-programmed activity without clearly specified outcomes, which in most cases is out of touch with the ordinary life. Various types of plays that children undertake contribute immensely to their development. Playing enables children to fully experience and discover their world.
Adults should provide adequate support, play space, as well as, different types of play materials in order to promote the present and the future wellbeing of children. Therefore, this paper examines the importance and characteristics of play in the first two years of a child development, as well as, the link between play and wellbeing.
The Importance of Play
Playing is crucial to the healthy development of children and their wellbeing. Play is beneficial to children in a number of ways. For instance, play helps in the cognitive development of a child thereby enabling the child to understand and make sense of his or her world. Play facilitates the process of brain development, which occurs majorly during the early years of a child’s development.
Play helps in the development of new neural connections that are crucial to effective learning in the later years of a child’s development. Through play, a child is able to interpret new experiences by building on the already acquired knowledge. Play enables a child to develop his or her thinking capabilities, which is crucial in problem solving and construction of new knowledge.
When babies are given a chance to engage in free unstructured plays they are able to develop the ability to think creatively and to exploit their imagination capabilities. Therefore, an opportunity to play enables a child to stand a better chance of handling new experiences and challenges
Play also enables a child to develop a sense of emotional intelligence. Play helps a child to perceive the emotional state of others, which enhances how a child relates to those around him or her. Play also promotes the development of positive emotions such as joy among children because play enables a child to develop the skill of entertaining themselves.
Therefore, from an early age a child will develop the ability to be self-reliant. Involvement in various forms of play enables a child to experience less negative emotions of fear, anxiety, stress, as well as, irritability while promoting calmness and the ability of a child to handle surprises and changes that he or she may encounter on a day to day basis. Hence, play greatly contributes to the emotional development and wellbeing of a child.
Play also helps in language development among children. Acquisition of language is very important in the developmental process of a child because language is the major means of communication. Therefore, developing a proficient oral language will enhance communication between the child and those around him or her.
Play enables children to learn and use language for various purposes, with different people, and in different scenarios. For instance, exposure to pretend plays at early years of a child development will enable a child to discover the meaning of various words that make up a language. Therefore, a child will always try to think on how to communicate appropriately, thereby enhancing language fluency.
Group play also enables a child to develop purposeful verbal communication. For instance, children often use language to ask for materials or information while playing with others. Children in early years of development often use few words in order to express themselves. Play enables children to listen to their peers as they talk and act. As a result, they also mimic similar sounds in order to learn various words.
Additionally, a number of children find pleasure in playing with language in order to understand word sounds, syllables, as well as, grammatical structure. For instance, children are able to develop a good mastery of their language by listening to jokes, riddles, and songs with rhyming words that often have elements of language play. Therefore, play greatly contributes in language development among children.
Play also promotes social, as well as, physical development of a child. Play enables children to interact with others, thereby developing their ability to relate with others effectively. Playing provides a child with an opportunity to develop values such as empathy, compassion, and sharing from an early age. Similarly, a child also gets the opportunity to master a number of nonverbal communication skills.
For instance, at an early age a child can be able to understand and master various facial expressions. Play also enables a child to develop attachment to others and build trust. On the other hand, children also benefit physically through various plays. Plays promote proper development of coordination and balance among children. As a result, play helps to eliminate stress, as well as, fatigue among children.
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Characteristics of Play
The plays in which children undertake during the first and second year of their development exhibit a number of characteristics. For instance, a number of children engage in sensory motor play during their first year of development. Whereby, children will repeatedly perform a motor or sensory activity previously learnt. A number of children in their first year of development derive pleasure from engaging in repeated sensory motor activities.
Most children develop interest in playing with unsophisticated objects at around five months. However, in most instances the infants are usually more interested in their own actions upon the objects rather than the play objects. During the age of nine to ten months, a number of children develop the ability to differentiate various play objects. Majority of children often prefer new objects to older ones.
Similarly, a number of children at the age of nine to ten months develop the ability to handle various objects in different ways in order to generate information from the objects. Therefore, most children aged one year old usually engage in discovery play. The major aim is to explore their environment in order to determine the texture, shape, size, and how various objects are made.
During the second year of development, most children develop the appropriate use of objects and engage more in symbolic play. At this stage, children begin to shift attention from self to the external environment. Similarly, they also develop the ability to substitute and in corporate more objects into their plays. For instance, a child may use a box as a car.
Some may also begin engaging in imaginative play at the age of two years whereby they imitate various animal sounds and behavior. Additionally, children aged two years old also participate in social play whereby they play together in groups. During social play, children are able to initiate their own games and design rules on how to play.
Social play enables children to develop socialization skills such as cooperation, sharing, as well as, honesty. These skills are important, as they will enable the child to develop into a more responsible adult in future. However, adults also play a crucial role in the play of children because they act as directors and can encourage children to develop desired social behavior during social play.
The relationship that Exist Between Play and Wellbeing
One major reason for play is to have fun. Therefore, enjoyment is one of the key reasons why a number of children play. Play evokes positive emotions in children, which are crucial to the attainment of the wellbeing and health of children. Play enables children to experience feelings of joy, which contributes immensely to the development of a high self-esteem.
Additionally, play enables children to have a healthy lifestyle. For instance, play enables children to burn calories that may be stored as fat if they lead inactive lifestyles. Therefore, play may help in the reduction of health problems such as obesity among children, as well as, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Most cases of ADHD among children are linked to diminished play opportunities.
Hence, an active play lifestyle has the potential to boost the physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of a child. Through play, children are able to develop a number of skills and competencies such as decision making skills, problem-solving skills, as well as, developing emotional intelligence.
However, inadequate play may inhibit optimal learning and development in children, which may interfere with a child’s ability to socialize appropriately with other people. Inadequate play may result into an impaired brain development because play is crucial in the process of brain development.
Additionally, play deprivation may also lead to deviant social behavior among children. Therefore, insufficient play among children has the possibility of negatively affecting the wellbeing of a child’s developmental process.
Play forms an integral part of a child developmental process. The types of plays that children engage in differ depending on the child’s age. For instance, at the age of one year most children engage in repeated sensory motor play activities, which are mostly solitary. At the age of nine months, most children develop the ability to engage in discovery play in order to explore their environment.
In the second year of their development, most children are able to participate in social play. Plays have a number of benefits to children. For instance, play helps in the cognitive and language development among children. Similarly, play helps to promote the emotional and physical wellbeing in children.
Therefore, children who engage in a number of plays are able to experience a healthy lifestyle. On the other hand, inadequate play has the potential of having adverse effect on children such as deviant behaviors and health problems such as obesity among children. Therefore, children should have ample playtime in order to realize optimal development and functioning.