When children play we often just think they’re having fun, but research has shown that play is essential for their development. Play helps build their confidence, helps them develop appropriate social skills, communication skills and also physical skills. They learn about caring for others, the environment and play helps connect pathways in their brain. Quite often, just letting your child play freely is the best approach as it increases their creativity and imagination. However, there are also things you can do to help them and this is what we call 'Real Play'.
Making the most of play time
“With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships and submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported into a world of his/her own, one where anything is possible.” – National Toy Hall of Fame
In a world where fancy gadgets are at our fingertips, children have lost the original meaning of play where it involves running around, exploring the environment and playing with others. Unfortunately, we see more and more toddlers on their iPads and not engaging with the world around them. What we are trying to say is that Real Play does not involve expensive toys, in fact these often hinder their creativity. Real Play is when children are given toys that are open ended. By that we mean they can create anything they want out of the toy.
How do we promote Real Play?
- Getting them to explore the environment / nature.
- Giving them basic materials i.e cardboard boxes, plastic cartons, any recycling material to play with, so that during play time they have to learn
to plan and develop nothing into something.
- For younger ones, free drawing (scribbling) is a good way to expand their imagination. You can incorporate messy play into this.
Key questions to ask your child during Real Play
- PLANNING – what do you need? Lets think about what you need to do.
- WONDERING – I wander what this can do? Why do you think that happened?
- PREDICTING – Can you guess what will happen next?
- REMEMBERING – Tell me how it all started? Do you remember this toy is just like the other one you played with, what was it?
All of this helps develop memory connections, which is essential for learning.