Play time!

Did you know that the right brain develops first? It does so by the time children are 3-4 years of age. The left brain, on the other hand, doesn’t fully come online until children are approximately seven years old; hence the first seven years being recognized as such a critical period in child development. Below is a little more information on the importance of play for children’s development.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

The left brain’s functionality is one of language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time. It is the logical, calculating, planning, busy-bee part of us that keeps us anchored in the pragmatic world, and in the past and future. The right brain, on the other hand, is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity. It is where we wonder, dream, connect and come alive. Through the right brain we dwell in the space of no-time, in being absolutely present. While the left brain is more interested in outcomes or product, the right brain cares much more about process—the journey is what matters, not the destination. 

Play is a child’s work

‘Play’ is sometimes contrasted with ‘work’ and characterised as a type of activity which is essentially unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose. As such, it is seen as something that children do because they are immature, and as something they will grow out of as they become adults. However, as this report is intended to demonstrate, this view is mistaken. Play in all its rich variety is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology. Indeed, without play, none of these other achievements would be possible. The value of play is increasingly recognised, by researchers and within the policy arena, for adults as well as children, as the evidence mounts of its relationship with intellectual achievement and emotional well-being.

What can be gained through playing?

Involvement in play stimulates a child’s drive for exploration and discovery. This motivates the child to gain mastery over their environment, promoting focus and concentration.

It also enables the child to engage in the flexible and higher-level thinking processes deemed essential for the 21st century learner. These include inquiry processes of problem solving, analysing, evaluating, applying knowledge and creativity.

Play also supports positive attitudes to learning. These include imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence. The type of learning processes and skills fostered in play cannot be replicated through rote learning, where there is an emphasis on remembering facts.

The inquiry-based nature of play is supported through the social interactions of adults and children. Adults can take an active role in guiding children’s interactions in the play. Children are supported in developing social skills such as co-operation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating, and resolving conflicts. Following rules, taking turns, valuing the choice of others, accepting losing are all values that are important in future life and can be learnt, i.e. with the help of games.

Adults can also use children’s motivation and interest to explore concepts and ideas. In this way, children acquire and practice important academic skills and learning in a playful context. Playing together also strengthens the family unit.

For example, research indicates the increased complexity of language and learning processes used by children through playing is linked to important literacy skills.

Research shows play-based activities for young children can provide a strong basis for later success at school. They support the development of socially competent learners, able to face challenges and create solutions.