“ When children play they are working hard trying to make sense of their world”.
This quote by Doug Goodkin sums up the key reason why play is important for children, all children. It is the way they understand and explore the world around them. This could be through exploring chocolate spread on the table where they understand cause and affect and realise that they can make an impact on their environment or understanding through jumping and rolling how their body moves in space. It could be lining up farm animals in sequence to appreciate shape, form and order, which are the skills that underpin later reading and writing, as they learn sequencing and understanding how things work together as well as organisation, or through creating a Lego kingdom where they feel a sense of ownership, control and power in their own small world.
All children given the chance will play it is an instinct and the language of childhood. Through play children learn about their physical, cognitive and social/emotional worlds.
Play occurs in three main developmental stages
Stage One: Sensory motor play- feeling and exploring play– where they learn about their bodies and how their senses work, it is cause and affect play and how they learn about themselves and the outside world.
Stage Two: Objects play- projecting ourselves onto the world play- this is where children play with toys and objects, learning about relationships through a tangible object and building expressive and communicative skills. This develops an understanding of others, symbolic thought and builds visual and creative memory.
Stage Three: Imaginative play –"as if" play- this is where children can play roles, imagine and create ideas and games. It is higher thought, the underpinning of social understanding and empathy and the development of the critical and symbolic thought needed for schooling and adult life.