What Children Learn Through Play

Playtime isn’t just fun and games. It is the most important tool children have for learning. From the infant years where babies learn simple concepts like cause and effect, through childhood, where play encourages learning of social skills and more, a child at play is a child developing.

Infants: Learning about the World

The earliest forms of play in infancy are the ways in which a baby discovers what is in his world, how it works, and how he fits into it. Through play a baby learns about cause and effect; how he can have an impact on objects and people, and how to elicit responses in different ways. He learns how to move his body, improve his motor skills, and make his way through the world. Play encourages an understanding of spatial awareness, object permanence, differences between objects and more.

Through play, an infant is also learning how to use his voice, how to communicate his needs and desires, and creating the building blocks of language. Games involving a lot of interaction with mom and dad are vital to this learning process.

Toddlers: Independence and Personality

Entering the toddler years, play is an avenue for a child to develop a sense of who he is as a person, and what his role is in the family. Play encourages your toddler to test his independence while learning – and then pushing past – his limitations. Toddlers begin to build a foundation for social skills and also develop imagination, both of which are important to future endeavors. As independence blossoms, your toddler will learn to play by himself and to solve his own problems

Your toddler is also swiftly adding to a wider knowledge base about the world, as he learns colors, numbers, sizes and even more abstract concepts like feelings. Vocabulary is expanding at an incredible rate as he learns the labels for more and more things and can relate experiences to each other. All of these things are learned through play, which becomes more imaginative and involving during these years.

Preschoolers: Social Skills and Problem Solving

As your preschooler begins to interact more and more with her peers, the play they engage in together will teach her vital social skills. Your preschooler is learning to share, and to think about other people’s needs. She is learning how to cooperate with other children, through negotiation, compromise and exploring options. She is learning patience, taking turns, and how to deal with delayed gratification. Play with others also teaches preschoolers about empathy; she is learning to consider other people’s feelings, and to understand how others might feel in various situations.

Although problem solving skills begin at a very young age, in preschool they go to a whole new level. Your preschooler is working with more abstract concepts and solving problems that are not always right in front of her. In addition to teaching cooperation, working out the issues encountered while playing with others teaches problem solving. At this age, she is also practicing these skills through role-playing games which allows her to see things from a different perspective.

Throughout childhood, the most important task at hand is learning, and the number one way children do this is through play. From infancy through into school, the skills learned at playtime build upon each other to help children to make sense of their world and prepare to be citizens within it.

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