Play is designed for exploration and discovery about the individual playing and the world around them. For children of any age, play offers a unique opportunity to develop social skills organically and innovatively. By engaging with others, creating scenarios, and learning to collaborate, children are able to cultivate social skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Solitary play is important for cognitive growth, but collaborative play presents situations where children can connect with others on an intimate level and work to understand each other. Playing pretend and crafting situations (such as cooks in a kitchen or a family dinner) can enable children to connect with each other in a unique way by assuming new roles; in these situations, they also may work together to tell a story, solve problems, and learn more about one another. Children are able to better understand how to relate to others and work together through play.
Real Life Mirroring
Young children learn best through mimicry. Replicating scenarios they have witnessed (like caring for a child or going grocery shopping) allows children to reflect on what they have seen and make sense of it. Rather than simply studying the concepts of childcare and finance management, children are able to combine their knowledge and work out an understanding together. Playing in this way allows for social development as well as creativity; a child may not fully understand the concept of “credit,” but they may develop some idea of what it could be and attempt to relate it back to what they have seen in reality.
Many skills cannot be taught in the traditional ways subjects like math and history can be taught. Play serves as a vehicle for the development of abstract skills such as generosity, compassion, and self-control. Facilitating activities like “Simon Says,” which rewards participation and engagement as well as good listening skills, or emotion charades, which encourages the development of empathy and expression, can help children grow in their understanding of each other and of themselves.
In playing with others, children learn to control their impulses and avoid negative behaviors; this is a practice in both self-regulation and empathy, as children learn to recognize the consequences of their actions and how they can affect the experiences of others. Play allows for the natural development of such realizations without formally instructing children in the way of interpersonal relations.
Incorporating play into an educational setting allows for developmental opportunities that may not be found in a traditional, formal setting. Play is an essential part of childhood. It is not regarded as important simply for its benefit of expression and freedom but because it enables the growth of a child in terms of cognitive, physical, and social skills.