P is for Play – The ABC of Early Years Education
Play is frequently referred to as ‘important’ during the early years. But the reality is way beyond that. Play is profoundly essential and, in fact, life-changing for children — forming a key building block for development and wellbeing.
Physical play, for example, provides a range of experiences so varied that they influence the architecture of a child’s developing brain — an impact that will have consequences for the rest of their life. It nurtures a child’s creativity and capacity to problem-solve, which later aids academic learning.
For vulnerable children, play can provide a therapeutic outlet as they create imaginative worlds in which they can escape and feel safe.
In these carefree moments, when the brain is flooded with endorphins, little ones are eased of their anxiety — a feat that social workers and counsellors may, alone, struggle to achieve.
Not only a support for mental wellbeing, play performs a crucial role in physical health too. For example, children instinctively skip — not by chance, but because it helps to build bone density. The movement associated with early play also supports healthy heart function. Meanwhile, the varied experiences of outside play — requiring various levels of focus — encourages optimal eye development.
For those deprived of play, the results can be catastrophic. As such, we need to change our language around the topic so that it’s treated with the significance that it deserves.