Play is, or should be, at the heart of children’s lives and is a vital part of their learning and early childhood education. There are lots of different approaches to play, but playing with other children is both beneficial and important for their learning experience – here’s why.
During the early years, children go through several important stages of learning and development and the early years provide an important foundation for the rest of their lives. Two of the skills which children learn are socialisation and interaction and these will play an important role throughout life. As human beings, we need to be able to make friends, get on with other people and share our experiences and emotions – without these skills, life can be very difficult.
From birth, babies begin to pick up the basics of interaction and socialisation and this increases as they grow and develop. In the early stages, parents can help encourage an enjoyment of play by interacting with their baby, playing with them and using baby toys or books to gain interest. Facial expressions, tone of voice, laughing and joking can all enhance the experience and help children gain the right impression, that play is fun and enjoyable.
The Importance of Play Dates
Although babies don’t particularly interact that well with other babies when they’re young, you will gradually notice more desire to interact and play as they approach 12 months of age and older. Even when they’re too young to play together, it’s good for your baby to be with other children of a similar age and this should be encouraged and continued throughout life.
Play dates, where your child has a friend over to play or goes to play with someone else, are important for many areas of learning. From a social point of view, playing with someone else can be a lot more fun than simply playing on their own and from the social interaction side of things, it can help children learn how to – and how not to – effectively get on with other children in a social setting.
For example, playing with toys helps children learn about sharing and taking turns. It might not always be obvious or easy from the outset, but sharing their toys with other children and taking turns to play with things are skills that will help them during childhood and as they get older.
It’s not just playing together with toys and games that helps with learning and development – playing outside with other children, getting involved in games of tag or games with a competitive nature all play their part in being beneficial too, as does the chance to learn about the wider world around them.
Play is all about helping children develop physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. When we see children involved in play, it’s easy to forget how important it is for them. The more opportunities that children have to interact with their peers, to learn new skills, learn about themselves and discover new games, the better.