How often have you asked your young child, “What did you do at school today?” And how many times have they answered you, “Play!” And suddenly, just when you have started to worry, your child starts reading, doing sums and answering you in English. Now tell me what is the best way to learn, if it is not by playing, having fun, without realising it, letting yourself go? It is not the same to learn maths through play as through worksheets that use technical, logical language for the child who may not yet be ready and which is removed from their normal environment.
Playing is not just about having fun. Playing is also synonymous with discovering, experimenting, exploring and interacting. Through play, their motor, cognitive and affective skills, as well as the ability to relate to others and the world around them, are activated and optimised.
Play encourages creativity and stimulates children's curiosity. Nature impels us to play and, therefore, to learn. There is a stage at which children only play, and that is just how it should be. Animals of all species do the same thing. It is the most natural and effective way to discover and to get to know their environment, LEARNING in capital letters. Our job is to offer our children a place to play and to encourage the acquisition of skills and knowledge and an increasing degree of independence as they grow up.
Group play at school teaches them teamwork and facilitates cooperative learning. Overcoming all the challenges posed by play allows children to see the results of their efforts and motivates them to continue "playing".
I heard someone say the other day, “the less the toy does, the more the child will do,” and I think they were absolutely right. Let’s look at a quick example: whilst you go round in circles trying to find the perfect toy for them, children are entertained with a plastic bottle. Play is about curiosity and pleasure and it is almost an attitude that requires high levels of imagination and motivation. Perhaps you could say that it is one of our most natural instincts and we have to know how to encourage it. Let’s make sure our children play and are imaginative whilst they are growing up and that they never lose interest in the joy of playing. For all these reasons I would encourage you to never stop playing. I certainly won’t!