Why Children Need to Play

Education - Saigon/HCMC: March 23, 2016

Representational Thought

children need to playSource: Steve Bridger

Through imaginary play the child practices many different ways of representing reality, by creating symbols. He'll make homes, farms, animals, people, food, or an outing to the "zoo” with paint, blocks, play-dough and sand, or by dressing up. His creations are symbols of representational thought. Symbols are things that represent something else - an object, idea or event. What's important is that all later education is based on the assumption that a child has symbolic competence.

Conceptual Thought

children need to playSource: Fernanda do Canto

Children at play are young scientists and mathematicians. They're exploring the boundaries of their worlds, asking what happens if I mix mud with water, red with blue, blue with yellow? When a child plays with sand and a bucket, or water and jugs, he is laying the foundations of mathematical understanding. lt's only through experience that he will come to understand concepts like greater than, smaller than, density, gravity, weight, size and conservation of liquids. It is only through play that he will gain this concrete experience and knowledge.

Language and Communication Skills

children need to playSource: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fonticulus/

During play, children's language is more complex than in most other activities. They're practicing using the adult language they've heard, by using it in role-play. A child "playing” at being the teacher, mother or father, will recreate the language patterns she's overheard, using correct grammar and a wide range of advanced communication skills. I remember my surprise on first hearing my own words, expression and mannerisms coming out of my two year old daughter Emma!

Physical Development

children need to playSource: Guilherme Jofili

Children at play are exercising their bodies and mastering physical coordination in the most natural way. Rhyme games for clapping, jumping, crawling, miming daily activities and "freezing" the movement are excellent ways to help your child develop mastery of gross and fine motor skills. He'll need these for later literacy. A child who can't sit at a table and cut, can't learn to write, so it's not only fun, but also beneficial, to enjoy cutting and making a collage together at home.

Here is some homework to help kids develop through play:

  • Reading bedtime stories, talking about them and extending them into make-believe games.
  • Imaginative play. Make a dressing up box to keep at home that stimulates role-play and drama.
  • Playing games together as a family, sharing activities and hobbies. Our children learn important social rules, like turn-taking and fairness, from games. They come to accept losing (someone has to) and learn to value failure as an opportunity to evaluate and try again.
  • Outings to special places. Planning together and preparation as a family are all part of the learning journey.
  • Family conversation. Let's show our children that we value them by listening to them, letting them practice talking and sharing their ideas.


Original article published earlier in the May 2015 – International Child Care Centres-SmartKids periodical.

For more Parenting advice please refer to http://www.smartkidsinfo.com/parentingMagazine/parentingMagazine.html