Nikki Moore, LPN Owner & Director Little Me Studio
Kids love to play. It just comes naturally to them. Left alone – or in any circumstance really – children will instinctively begin to play. No toys around? No problem! A stick in the yard becomes a sword or a walking stick or a horse. The possibilities are endless ☺ And playing makes children happy. As they gallop through the yard on the horse/stick, they giggle and whoop. This kind of physical play has so many amazing benefits – it makes their bones and hearts and lungs stronger, decreases childhood obesity, and improves their balance and coordination. Everyone pretty much understands the importance of physical activity and play in childhood. But what parents may not know is that scientists have been studying the learning potential and developmental benefits offered to children through play.
Block play is a great example of an activity that offers a ton of hidden benefits. Imagine we’re observing a group of children playing with blocks. What are some of the things the children might be learning or what benefits are to be gained through this type of play?
1. Play is the most effective way to practice social skills – As your child is playing with the blocks, she’s learning to share the blocks with the other kids in the group. Maybe a friend is playing with the block she wants to play with. This offers her the chance to be patient and wait her turn.
2. Play promotes language skills and builds vocabulary – As your child plays, maybe he’s talking about the blocks or his dog or his school or his shoe – LOL! What he talks about is not as important as the actual act of talking. The conversation serves as practice so the more he talks, the more words he’ll learn and the better communicator he’ll become!
3. Play helps children learn to manage emotions – Maybe a friend takes a block without asking. This circumstance allows your child the chance to practice regulating his emotions. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum or yelling, your child can use his words to explain that he feels sad or angry or frustrated.
4. Play builds confidence – Each level of the tower being built and each block placed increases your child’s sense of accomplishment through successful experiences. She feels proud of what she has made, which in turn increases her belief in herself and her abilities.
5. Play allows children to learn empathy – Empathy allows us to understand and share the feelings of others. And who better to understand the sadness of a toppled block tower than the child building right next to him?
6. Play promotes the deepest kind of learning – Play encourages children to become self-directed learners or learners who are driven by their own curiosity and desire for exploration. During block play we can encourage this child-driven learning by posing questions that encourage problem-solving or prediction. For instance, does it take four blocks stacked one on top of the other to make the tower fall or does it take six?
7. Play is the most effective way to learn – Play gives the brain different ways to engage and learn new material, making learning easier, more long-lasting and fun. Who wouldn’t choose learning colors or shapes organically through block play over flash cards and memorization? Also, through hands-on play, children experience the tactile sensation of the shape of the blocks, which engages an entirely different part of the brain. Play isn’t just something children like to do because it’s enjoyable – it’s something they need to do because it’s essential to learning and their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development and well-being. So let’s get to work – and let them PLAY!