In the first eight years of life we see them go from little beings who are completely reliant on us for their care to technology geniuses, who know more about how to operate our mobile phones and computers than we do.
These skills are largely picked up through play. While it may seem like kids are just having fun (which is equally important!), play allows children to acquire skills innately and naturally, enhancing and strengthening their development across key areas of development.
Karen Williams, Child Development and Parenting Expert and owner of Smarter Kids Kindergarten & Preschools, says that by changing the way we look at play we can see how different activities can develop the whole child – all while they’re having fun.
“Physical activities such as running, playing ball, climbing on the monkey bars, dancing and swinging are not only great at burning up endless energy, they are a crucial way kids develop their gross motor skills as well as hand/eye coordination and balance,” says Karen.
“For developing the fine motor skills needed for holding a pencil and typing on a keyboard, playdough, construction with blocks, threading and weaving are all fun play activities.
“By playing with other children, they learn how to take turns and share without the need for adults intervening and imaginative play encourages language and literacy development.”
Getting messy by exploring nature and creating art provides opportunities for not only building creativity, but essential cognitive skills as well.
“Through both free and structured play children build up their problem-solving skills and ability to understand consequences, learn responsibility and how to help themselves,” says Karen.
Karen says that parents only need to think back to their own childhood for inspiration on how to play with their kids.
“Many of the games we played as children teach multiples of these skills in a natural way without it feeling like a chore, for parents or for kids,” she says.
“That really is the key. If we want to create a love of learning and have children who actually enjoy the experience, we need to make it as fun as we possibly can. The goal should be to make learning so joyful, it is something they simply want to do again and again.”