Play is important for children in preschool and kindergarten because it provides a variety of learning opportunities. Play promotes growth and social, emotional, language, literacy, cognitive, physical, and motor development. It also provides children with the opportunity to learn skills that will help them reach school readiness.
There are multiple types of play to incorporate into your schedule. In the future, I will regularly incorporate informal play, socio-dramatic play, and outdoor play in my schedule. Informal play, also known as free play, is important because it encourages children to use their imaginations, creativity, manipulate items, explore, and understand how things around them work. I will choose materials, games, and toys with care and also make sure they are items that can be seen and used in multiple ways. Socio-dramatic play is another form of play I will incorporate. This type of play offers teachable moments on responsibility, problem solving, self-expression, explore roles, and language development. I will have a dramatic play set up in my classroom with everything labeled to encourage language and literacy development. Outdoor play is another type of play that helps children develop their large muscle groups, gross motor skills, and motor coordination. Incorporating this into my schedule allows teachable moments in cooperative skills as well. I will have outdoor play in a natural environment and embark on listening walks where children can explore and listen to their natural environment. I would include moveable objects that promote exercise such as wagons, slides, balls, tricycles, bubbles, and a parachute we can use as a group. It is important to incorporate different types of play to best meet the individual needs of the children within your class.
“Play is the work of the child” as noted by Jean Piaget. Play is essential for healthy development, and research shows that 75% of brain development happens after birth. When an infant smiles and makes noises and the adult or caregiver responds with the same likeness, this is an instance of play. Through play a child learns social and motor skills and cognitive thinking. Play time helps children learn to communicate their emotions, to think, and solve problems. Physical play helps a child develop their large motor skills, like when jumping and running at the park. Playing with Legos or small farm toys looks like fun, but it also serves as a way to develop their fine motor skills and cognitive development. Children gain knowledge through play and it helps them test their beliefs about the world around them.
This week we learned about 9 different types of play, but I will focus on social play, physical play, and expressive play. Social play begins around the age of three and it when children start to play with others, such as sharing their toys and taking turns. In a preschool classroom there is plenty of time for social play during free choice centers and playground time. During free choice centers children might be playing with blocks to build something together, or ask for materials when building a structure independently. Physical play offers a chance for children to exercise and develop muscle strength. Playing games like tag, and hide and seek offer these kinds of experiences.
Even having balance beams, and stepping stones in the classroom offer this type of movement without having to go outside. Dance parties during indoor recess also offer opportunities for physical play. Expressive play helps children learn to express their feelings. Having different types of noise makers such as rain sticks or drums in a “safe place” or “cozy corner” offers expressive play. Paint, markers, and oil pastels with paper or canvas can be a part of expressive play. Bean bags, squishies, and other items that offer varieties of textures are also ways children can be expressive while being playful. I believe expressive play is important for small children because they do not have the brain function or the vocabulary to verbally express how they feel.
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