If you’ve spent even just a small amount of time around children, whether you’re an expecting parent, or an established parent, you’ll have noticed that play takes on a variety of forms. It’s an excellent outlet for encouraging creative expression as well as offering children valuable opportunities that contribute to their learning. Play supports learning across physical, social, emotional and intellectual areas of development and through play, children build the foundation for later learning as they solve problems and increase their understanding of themselves, other people, and the world around them.
Play helps children learn about the world through listening, looking, touching, tasting and smelling. It helps them explore their senses and provides opportunities to socialize more widely. During play, your toddler’s hard at work mastering a range of new skills such as balance, muscle control and coordination. Shorter games suit this age, as little ones have little attention spans! By the age of two, children are usually walking but still working on their mastery of turning and stopping, so it’s great fun to play games that help develop their balance.
Turn the radio on and dance some crazy moves (for example)! Throwing and kicking balls are also lots of fun at this age and are a great excuse to practice some motor skills. Play dough helps teach coordination and playing musical statues helps strengthen balance. So as you can see, the possibilities for play are endless!
Children of four and five love to participate in imaginary play and social development grows through fantasy play and imagination. At this age children start to identify with their gender and to role play the gender they feel most connected to.
Ages six and seven is the beginning of the ‘middle years’. Children at this age have refined their balance and coordination and will enjoy hop scotch, skipping, riding a two-wheeler bike, catching a ball with one hand, and will also enjoy participating in team games, painting and drawing.
Six and seven year olds still prefer to play on their own but are starting to develop friendships with children of their own gender. They like to copy adults and board games are also popular and are a great way to strengthen development of concentration, cognitive thinking and imagination.
8 year olds are more graceful in their movements and have capacity for far more complex activities. They’ll also start enjoying mixing with both genders and learn how to play with children of the opposite gender. They like to jump, skip and enjoy competitive games. Eight is a great age to encourage your little one to join a club or group, like Scouts or a sports team.
As well as for younger ones, play beyond the age of eight is highly beneficial, so it’s important to encourage even your eldest to participate in all the different forms of play. Now that we understand play has both educational and developmental purposes we can teach our littles ones there’s a time and a place for play in all its forms. Enjoy!