Developmental Perspectives - Dr. Ana Garcia Nevarez
The Role of Play in our Children's Lives
Posted December 7th 2012

Play is a necessary element of healthy development for children of all ages. Play influences all areas of development; it offers children the opportunity to learn about the self, others and the physical environment (Catron & Allen, 2007). Through play, children build important knowledge that encompasses many developmental domains, such as literacy and mathematics. Even in the earliest years, children are becoming familiar with words from playing with books or other materials that have letters on them. Throughout the school years, children are constantly developing their language skills through play, as well as learning important roles that pertain to the real world (Seefeldt, 2001). For example, when children are engaged in playing “house” or “dress up,” they are often interacting with one another, which is important for language development while also applying and modifying their current knowledge about the real world.

Susan is a grandmother who raised her three kids in the mid-’60s. When she was raising her kids, she did not know much about the importance of play and the benefits that play has for children. The research was not as evident, and parents did not know that play forms the foundation for cognitive, creativity, and language development. Susan thought that when her children were playing, they were just having fun and entertaining themselves. She never thought that their play promoted their intellectual and social development. She is glad to see and read the extensive research people have done in the area of play. Her grown-up daughter has benefitted from reading the research on play because she has exposed her kids, Susan’s grandchildren, to quality books and exploratory toys that engage and challenge the mind.

How would you respond if a parent asked why the children in your care were allowed to spend so much time playing or told you that play has no contributions to learning in a child’s development?

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Reply from Karina Cervantes posted on May 20th 2013
I would have to agree with a lot of the previous comments that have already been posted. Play can be a very productive in a child's development if the play that is happening is productive and meaningful. For example if the child is role playing or if the child is learning from the type of play that is occurring then that would be the type of play that will help the child to further develop their social/emotional and cognitive skills.
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Reply from Jose Lopez posted on May 20th 2013
If a parent asked why children were allowed to play so much or that play had no contributions to learning in child’s development, I would respectfully disagree with them. Using non-evasive mannerism I would provide research that explains how beneficial play is in children’s language development and to their application and modification of their current knowledge of the world. I would also give them research evidence that free play is essential for proper social development and that one researcher found that lack of free play is what people in jail have in common in regards to their early child development.
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Reply from Rebekah Mamola posted on May 20th 2013
If a parent asked me why their child was allowed so much play time in my program I would try and explain to them the importance and benefits of play for their child’ development. I would explain to them how play supports social, emotional, physical and mental development. I would try and help them understand that play is actually a vital part of early childhood curriculum. I would also explain to them that play fosters a child’s a creativity and imagination. In addition I would explain that play helps children make sense of what they are observing around them. Oftentimes young children in play will imitate social and cultural norms they observe.
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Reply from Lauren Pettipiece posted on May 16th 2013
I would explain to a parent doubting the contributions of play that that there are many benefits and influences that play has on different aspects of their child’s life. Not only does it benefit their social skills, gross or fine motor skills depending on what they are playing, and their language development if they are communicating with others, but there is so much more on top of that. I would explain that it is possible for a child’s development and learning to occur while they are playing, and try to come up with solutions to help the parent see that and implement types of play that are encouraging their child’s development.
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Reply from selena v. posted on May 8th 2013
I do not know much about the benefits for children to play, and therefore there is limited but good information I know about play and its contribution to learning in a child’s development. Past research that I have read, has shown that the interaction that happens between children when playing helps them improve their social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. There are times when it depends the type of play children do and who they play with that helps the a lot or little with their development. For example, if children play with their parents, parents then can play with their children educational games; yet, if children play with their friends they can pretend play by playing “house.” When children play with older adults educational games, children can enhance their cognitive “thinking” development. In addition, playing not only helps with children development, but also it is a good source of physical development. Play is an important part of children’s development. When children play with their friends not only are they having fun, but also they are building strong relationships. Those relationships can get to last year and years, and that is why play should be allowed for children by their parents. Close friends can be beneficial to children as they grow up because they can serve as a support and confidence in difficult times. Play should be allowed by all parents because it is beneficial in many ways to children’s development.
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Reply from Shelbi Andrion posted on February 28th 2013
Learning through play is a fairly new development that has really taken off. As a former nanny, I personally witnessed children learning through play. The children attended a private preschool whose foundations were based off of learning through play. My experiences shape my ideas but also they are a testament of the importance of developmental play. Children thrive when they are able to let their imaginations take charge. From my experience, children who engage in play with other kids have noticeable developmental skills. Their language is far more advanced and they are able to maintain relationships with others. While playing, children learn interaction; which is an essential skill needed in the "real world". I am a strong believer in play, and if I were confronted I would stress the importance it holds.
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Reply from Amanda posted on February 4th 2013
Play is an important aspect of development because it incorporates so many areas of development such as cognitive and social emotional development. I know as an observer I learn a lot about where a child is developmentally while observing during play.
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Reply from Rosita Villarreal posted on December 13th 2012
Just a thought, as I considered the replies from others, "What if there is only one parent, not the idea that Mom comes home from work, Dad cooking dinner." It's not all ideal, and the different scenarios are too many, so a child just needing to be "self", is heartwarming in itself. Just a thought.
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Reply from Arlysha posted on December 11th 2012
As we all know , play is an important activity within a child's life. If a parent told me that play has no contributions to learning while developing I would say that, it does. It gives children an opportunity to develop mastery in social skills, and learn from other children as well. This activity of play will enable children to understand how to be a child and enjoy it while gaining friends at the same time. Play also helps the child to grow and learn in other areas such as developing language skills and other important qualities that will benefit them in the future.
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Reply from LaShelle posted on December 11th 2012
Play is how a child learns to adapt to their peers. That is how a child can observe another peer and still if he/she is comfortable and safe to make friends to play with. Children learn from each other when they play together. Hopefully they are positive things. lol Play helps a child promote their social/emotional skills along with fine motor and cognitive skills especially playing in a group of children. Play is fun for everyone even adults still and it takes away the every day stress. Laughing is a type of play. Play is important in a child's world and adults world. Truly a child can learn from playing especially when they are babies. By being able to play you development into a more rounded person. Playing is a natural state within its self. You can not mess play time up, because there is no messing up, there is no right way to play or wrong way you just PLAY
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Reply from amy anderson posted on December 10th 2012
As a volunteer at the University of California Sacramento Associated Students Children's Center, I have observed children ages three to four in many complex pretend play situations in which they mimic adult roles of father, mother, and child. The roles of mother and father are not just fixed within the typical wife who stays home and husband who works during the day. For example, the scenario could be the wife coming home from her job and the husband fixing dinner for the wife and children. In addition, play gives children a chance to act out challenges they might be confronting in the class or with their families and finding a solution during their pretend solitary play or group play.
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Reply from Rosita Villarreal posted on December 10th 2012
I think, Play is work for preschool children. Even the word "play" is new to them. As for the parents,I would allow them to see an example of the child's creative loco-motor and imagination in process.I would also ask "What kind of "Play" to the parents do for enjoyment?" Every step is a learning phase. I raised mine in the 70's. At a time when we didn't want kids to be adults,especially in the kitchen. The treats they got were books,and transformers. I didn't use words such as language or socialization. I used words like, cooperate, and have fun with it. Welcome to the 20th century.Right?
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Reply from Elona Teriouchkov posted on December 10th 2012
Play is a huge part of children's lives because it is natural and they spend so much time doing this activity. I think children learn and do their own share of work when they are playing. I remember myself in childhood-I took my play time very seriously, I felt that I was doing important tasks. Children learn to socialize when they play and they express a lot about themselves that can be observed which allows parents to correct their kids for bad manners or behaviour that is too aggressive. Children build relationships in play, they become more open and they develop the skills and values that will become so useful when they become a little bit older. I think that in play we can observe who children are, we can point out their talents and temperaments. This is useful information for teachers, by observing their students in play, they can learn how to better communicate with each student. Children do learn vocabulary and mathematics, and they also exercise more when they play with others. I think play is a natural, healthy behaviour for every child, even for adults!
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Reply from mary duncan posted on December 9th 2012
Hello Dr. Ana Garcia Nevarez: Enjoyed reading your blog. It reminded me of years ago when rearing my two children. Play is very significate in dealing with young ones. All interaction with children should be a teaching moment. Would you consider this over doing it? Mary Ann
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Reply from Jazmin Barnes posted on December 8th 2012
Play is very important for a child in my opinion because when a child "plays" they are using their imagination and creativity. For example, when a young girl plays"house", they are not aware of it, but it teaches them parenting skills and modifies their knowledge about what goes on in adulthood. I would tell the parent that it gives a child a sense of freedom and it gives them a chance to explore their surroundings and allows them to learn from their environment. So I believe that children should spend a lot of time playing to increase their motor skills.
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Reply from Angelica Palomares posted on December 7th 2012
I believe that play is important when raising a child. It allows then to socialize and experience quality time with their parents or care givers. I try to use play at my work to engage children in new experienced and to socialize with other children. If a parent asked me why I spend so much time playing with a child, I would tell them that children need to be open to new ideas and challenges. Children new to be monitored and to feel connected to a care giver. Children need to experience challenging talks in order to increase their motor skills and development.
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Reply from Kimberly Gordon Biddle posted on December 7th 2012
Dr. Garcia-Nevarez, You pose an excellent question! Play is indeed important for children's development, but that is not always evident. Sometimes the field of ECE seems divided into camps. Those who view play as important and those who stress learning and academics. What I would tell the parent is that play and learning can occur together, as these two processes are not opposed to one another. I would give her some examples such as the ones in the first paragraph of your blog entry. I would also tell her that certain complex pretend play/dramatic play helps with enriching cognitive development. My main point would be that play and learning can occur together if teachers plan correctly.
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Reply from Alina Frei posted on December 8th 2012
This is a really good insight Dr. Ana Garcia Nevarez. I would agree with Dr. Biddle when it comes to addressing such a question that may come up from a teacher's perspective. I would even include some examples of different types of play and how they actually help the child's development growth in different domains. Some examples would be free play which helps the child be socially adept and cope with stress. I would also tell them some of the benefits such as the child creates a development of friendship, better language ability due to peer communication/interaction, and provides for the opportunity of interaction amongst peers. I also found out that a lack of free play could result in a child's anxiety level, unhappiness, and social maladjustment. I also found some interesting research that children who had a lack of free play as a child had been arrested for a felony. I would use other examples such as what Dr. Biddle mentioned about complex pretend play/dramatic play. I think having an understanding of how play influences the child is effective and important.
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