Play for Preschoolers 

Kusum K. Bhatia,
Information Services Librarian - Children
parents playing with children

All play by children is purposeful and not idle. Play drives learning, and hands-on activities give meaning to play. Parents usually want to serve an active part in the growth of their pre-school children through play, but are unsure of its benefits, their role, their level of involvement and how to proceed. In this post, you’ll find a few of the many benefits of play and a few simple examples of play. One piece of advice remains constant through it all, though: don’t be afraid of the mess. 

Play is activity-based at its core and full of advantages, such as: 

  • Children will develop their bodies through play
  • Learning is more effective when children are curious to learn
  • Children have a chance to live and work with others 
  • Play aids in stabilizing children’s emotions

All the above result in an increase in the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of children.

Play builds a bond between you and your children. You become a part of their world and jointly set out to achieve a common goal. In addition to creating a bond, play also allows you to feel young and energetic.

Children learn new words and sounds through storytelling and exercise, enabling them to voice their imaginations. Thus, play lays the foundation for literacy. It also teaches spontaneity. During play, there may be unplanned teachable moments, and the child learns to solve the issue right there, spontaneously.

An important tip to conduct playtime is to set up an environment so that the child can focus, model how to play—i.e., show the child how it’s done and then gradually fade withdraw, allowing them to model what you showed. 

Examples of Play

  • Simply run toy cars back and forth on a taped or drawn line. You can use one-word commands such as stop and go, then graduate to traffic lights.
  • Books are a great item to promote functional play. Encourage your child to hold the book correctly, turn the pages with care and point to pictures. Imitate sounds or expressions of characters in the book and discuss the story in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Use blocks to show a simple example of building to the child and then, while they’re exploring, narrate what they are building. You can progress to naming the different colors and building a tower in one chosen color.
  • Use open-ended materials such as play-dough, sand, sticks and strings, paper, glue, and other collage materials in which the focus is on creating something. The child begins with the end in mind. 
  • Games with set rules are a window into the child’s moral development. They also encourage higher-order thinking. Children learn to apply knowledge and get better at the strategy with practice. For example, play board games such as snakes and ladders, Jenga and Cluedo, sports such as cricket or football, and playground games such as tag or hopscotch.
  • A child learns what a child sees. It’s safe to say that children are constantly observing. Your child watches you wash the dishes, work on the computer, cook, drive, clean—and they love to imitate what they see. Children pretend to do a task they’ve seen and role-play a person around them: parent, neighbor, teacher, sibling. Take advantage of this inherent skill in children and turn everyday life actions into play:

o    Involve your child in a cooking/baking activity.
o    Get down to rubbing and scrubbing a car.
o    Role-play a restaurant scene with the child playing the waiter/waitress and chef.
o    Make the child a part of everyday household chores like sweeping, dusting, etc.

We all need an occupation, something that engages and challenges us, and for children play is just that. AS Jean Piaget said, “Play is the work of childhood.”

Children are under so much pressure these days from the moment they start school. The time before school is fleeting and precious, with a chance for free play, exploration and having fun. Enjoy it! 

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