Importance of Play in Childhood

The importance of play in childhood development cannot be overestimated. It is an area often ignored by the curriculum, but research evidence has shown us repeatedly that play is vital for children and young people to develop appropriately.
Cognitive Development
Play has been shown to be very beneficial in children in terms of their cognitive development. Play in general can help children develop fine and gross motor skills.  Adults can structure or lead play or activities with children to help them develop certain skills. These structured activities can help with language development, numeracy and phonological awareness.
Regular play in childhood has also been linked to improved classroom behaviour. Barros, Silver & Stein (2009) found that children who had a fifteen minutes recess with play usually displayed better behaviour and followed more classroom rules than children who had either no recess or break. There are many potential reasons for this, including better emotion regulation which has been previously associated with regular play.
Play has also been shown to improve the conflict resolution skills of children and young people. This could also explain why the behaviour of children who get regular play times in school is usually better than those who do not. Play gives children the chance to practice resolving conflict, reducing the likelihood of challenging behaviour in the classroom.
It has been shown that play is particularly important regarding parent and child attachment styles. Research by Ginsburg, et al., (2007) showed that parent and child bonds are facilitated and improved by regular play. This can help the child develop important feelings of being safe and cared for throughout their lives. Companies such as Theraplay© specialise in using play to build attachment and bonds between carers and their children using play.

References and further reading
Barros, R., Silver, E., & Stein, R. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123 (2)
Ginsberg, K., et al. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. American Academy of Pediatrics.

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