As you work to develop schedules to manage time and learning throughout the day, be sure to factor in play. Especially for young children, play is a primary vehicle for learning. It creates opportunities for self-discovery, nurtures social connections, provides space to explore new ideas, helps to develop imagination, and solidifies speaking and listening skills. In play, children are able to self-direct and do so generally in accordance with developmental readiness (no need to consult a textbook here!).
There are generally five essential components of meaningful play.
Children make their own decisions.
Parents should provide an environment rich with open-ended materials. These include blocks, foam pieces, wooden sticks, ribbon scraps, reusable resources, art materials, etc. Within this safe and welcoming space, children can then make their own choices about what to play with and how to do so. By making their own decisions, they learn about cause-and-effect relationships, use their imagination, and nurture creative thinking.
Children are intrinsically motivated.
They have a natural desire to understand the world. In a risk-free atmosphere, they have the safety and security to try new ideas. When a child is immersed in true play, they often suspend their attention to their own physical needs and desires (ever have a child forget to use the bathroom or stay in a pool even though their teeth are chattering?). This effort is actually the beginning of developing self-control.
Children become immersed in the moment.
In the heat of play, the child can lose connection to time, space, and even reality. This is where imagination flourishes, where they have the safety to explore, experiment, and investigate.
Play is spontaneous, not scripted.
Even if play is planned in terms of time and resources, children may implement a change. This is because the lack of structure and unknowns actually prompts flexibility.
Play is enjoyable.
The difference between play and an activity is that play always has an emotion attached to it. Put simply, it should be FUN!
Playtime is necessary for children and it is also beneficial. In it, there is significant opportunity for intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development. And these will all come quite naturally, insha Allah, if you also respect your child’s time to play!
Zahirah Lynn Eppard is Sound Vision’s Director of Religious Education