Having your Champ throw a ball successfully or confidently lift their little feet off the ground at the sound of “jump!” can put a smile on every Champion Parent’s face. As much as playtime might be filled with silly moments and remain unbounded by strict rules, it is very much a huge part of healthy development. Exposing your Champs to different types of play is so important to child development, that even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has listed play and recreational activities as a basic right of every child. But beyond being a relief from serious learning, active playtime provides Champs with multiple sensory, physical and cognitive experiences. These experiences gained during free and unstructured time build connections in the brain, positively impacting your Champ’s ability to learn. But how exactly is playing synonymous with learning, and how can it have a lasting effect on your Champ’s development?
1. Strengthens and Increases Neural Connections
There is a reason why the word ‘play’ is within playgroup. Besides encouraging the use of their imagination during games such as make-believe, play also facilitates brain development and fosters cognitive growth. Your Champ’s brain develops in spurts during critical periods known as the ‘windows of opportunity’. Movement activates your Champ’s brain and stimulates it to make connections between nerve cells. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which influences everything from cognitive flexibility to memory, is also strengthened through play. As surprising as it may sound, simple games such as testing your Champ’s ability to keep up with the ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ choreography do loads in strengthening tissues in the brain. Demanding coordination from both sides of the brain, these quick movements strengthen neural pathways, develop gross motor skills and have a lasting effect on their development.
2. Lays the Foundation for Language Development
Your Champs are born and wired to pick up languages. As Champion Parents expose their little ones to songs and conversations, Champs learn more about communication even if they are unable to speak yet. While reading stories with your Champs will undoubtedly enhance their reading and writing skills and inform them that words carry meaning, there is also a positive connection between literacy learning and play. Play environments rich in literacy such as during a session of ‘I Spy’ can develop early literacy skills. Social interactions that they may have in outdoor playgrounds or during pretend-play will provide them with opportunities to practise new vocabulary and understand the words exchanged with other children.
3. Encourages Greater Independence
Nurturing independent learners with a Champion mindset is a goal of most educators and Champion Parents. But did you know play encourages greater independence? As much as Champion Parents dote on their little ones, there is no denying that Champs often have little say over their daily activities. However, in their own little world of play, fireworks will go off in their brain as they are given the opportunity to set the rules and get creative without limits. Solitary play, for example, develops a stronger sense of independence as they make the calls when it comes to what they want to do, when to change up the activities, or if they want others10 to join in the fun. Even if not playing in groups, Champs will be able to observe interactions from afar and learn social cues from a distance.
4. Delivers Emotional and Behavioural Benefits
Although adults are aware of effective ways to clear the mind, children may not. Like Champion Parents who may reach out to friends for a chat, go to the gym to work out a sweat or take a long walk, Champs can turn to play to reduce stress, anxiety and irritability. More than an outlet to spend their abundant energy, playtime boosts their self-esteem and joy. Interpersonal skills such as kindness, empathy, and teamwork are also key learning takeaways for your Champs. Moreover, playing in the presence of a reliable adult will allow them to communicate their feelings and have them be validated.
At MindChamps, our preschool curriculum includes enrichment modules that ensure a holistic learning experience. One of these is NeuroMoovesTM. Designed to enhance your Champ’s physical and neural development through activities that encourage the development of fundamental movement skills, NeuroMoovesTM will equip them with the ability to regulate his/her mental and emotional well-being. Similarly, MindSpace incorporates the renowned MindChamps enrichment curriculum and offers programmes such as Champion Theatre to develop the creative minds of Champs in primary school.
Play can nurture multiple aspects in your Champ’s early years and brain development. Therefore, understanding the importance of play in child development will do wonders in supporting your Champ in their journey towards flexing their imagination and creative brain muscles. For more ideas on how to support your Champ’s brain development, enquire about our programmes or book a centre visit.