When we think about the word play we are fundamentally influenced by our own experiences and the culture towards play. Many believe that play is the thing you do after more important tasks or that learning and play simply can not be associated with each other.
Play is a really sophisticated form of development. Children get to do higher order thinking and synthesising of lots of different things. It’s a coming together of cognitive skills and social emotional
skills in one experience.
It gets a bad rap sometimes but here are some important reasons why play is a great vehicle for learning many skills:
Play is where we practise many of the skills we need to interact with the world around us and a major component of that is the way we interact with others. Through play we are exposed to things like sharing and turn taking as well as ways to organise so that everyone gets a fair deal. Play teaches us how to communicate with others as we sort out the rules for whatever game we are playing.
Developing interests and passions
There is an old saying that says 'we don't know what we don't know' and that is especially true when talking about our passions and interests. Through play we experience many new things and have the ability to pursue things we are interested in. Play exposes us to a variety of experiences where we can establish our own interests and pursue them in new ways.
Play and the brain
The brain is an amazing machine and is constantly growing and developing new pathways. Play stimulates the brain by providing a context for learning that is free from the pressures we often place on ourselves. We try so many things through play and have the chance to practise skills in an environment where mistakes are a part of the process. How many of us learnt to kick a soccer ball just by playing games with our friends?
Play is an important part of the learning process. Hopefully this has given you a brief look into why learning happens all the time and might even inspire you to get out and experience play again. Remember you are never to old to experience the magic of play!