Playtime has always been a must for young children. It provides them with time to burn off some of that pent-up energy and just be a kid. But did you know that play and recess are essential to how your child learns and develops?
Studies show that recess and playtime can enhance a child’s attention span and allows them to focus better. The key is to have an unstructured break. Recess is a good example of this. It provides a time when children are free to play without adult direction or rules. For this reason, PE class is not a substitute for recess, as it is adult-structured. Studies have found that a recess of 10-30 minutes allows kids to pay more attention in the classroom. However, going much longer than this tends to have the opposite effect.
Pretend play is one of the most crucial elements of play. It has proved to have drastic effects on a child’s ability to learn. Language is just one of those areas that pretend play assists. A recent study has shown that children who do really well at pretend play and participate in it often have better overall language skills, both in the words they understand, as well as the words they speak.
Play helps to create stronger and long-lasting math skills. Blocks, in particular, seem to have a special effect in this area. Scientists studied a group of preschool children and followed their math skills through high school. Those children that played with blocks often in their early childhood did exceptionally well in math and took more math classes, including honors courses, as high school students.
There are two types of problems: convergent and divergent. Convergent problems have only one solution or answer, while divergent ones allow for several correct solutions. For example, a puzzle has only one correct solution and is convergent. Playdough, on the other hand, has several outcomes and is divergent. Experimental studies have shown that children who are given and play more with divergent materials have better problem-solving skills. They are able to see many solutions to one problem and are often more creative and are able to think outside the box.
Self-Regulation and Reasoning
The ability to pretend play has also been given great importance when it comes to counterfactual reasoning and the ability to self-regulate emotions, impulses, and attention. Counterfactual reasoning allows us to think about the “what-if” circumstances. Pretend play uses the same skill set.
It has been reported that children who frequently pretend play are better able to keep themselves in check. It is thought this because when children pretend play, there is a certain amount of agreement that must be present in all children involved. This “set of rules” and the practice of conforming to them over time enables children to learn to have better self-control.
Playtime and playful academic learning are essential for children of any age. It just might be something that makes all the difference for them later in life.