From the first game of peek-a-boo to dressing up as a superhero, play is the first and most enduring form of communication and self-expression for children. It is a universal “language” that is hard-wired in your child’s DNA.
We have all heard that children learn through play. But how, exactly, does play contribute to early-childhood development?
Whether playing independently building with blocks or interacting with other children at a playground or in a class, your child is learning. Their earliest “play” interactions are simple give-and-take activities with trusted adults, but they are teaching your child about the world around them. Those early games of peek-a-boo teach them about object permanence: something can still be there, even if you can’t see it. Rolling a ball back and forth and the ever popular “drop things from my highchair” activity both teach them about cause and effect!
As they get older, their play becomes more complex, and begins to include other children: starting with parallel play where they watch and, perhaps, mirror each other and, later, through cooperative play. Their imaginations begin to expand, and they start making up and acting out stories. Their grasp and use of language explodes. By exploring their world, and challenging themselves to try new things, they are gaining confidence and building their self-esteem. They gain independence by testing their limits, exploring their boundaries, and making choices. Even making mistakes or the wrong decision – as painful as it can be – is a learning experience.
As your child’s social circle expands, they learn patience, understanding and begin to develop empathy. They begin to recognize and respond appropriately to social cues. The more opportunities they are given to socialize with a variety of other children, and adults, the more open-minded they will become. And they will begin to develop a sense of community and long-lasting friendships. These first friendships may fall away over time, but will be replaced by new and, perhaps, closer friendships that can last a lifetime.
Giving your child a variety of play-based activities – at home, at classes, at the playground – is their most important early learning experience.
Our play-based learning programs are here to support your child’s development, from birth to kindergarten. Visit us at www.gymboreeclasses.com for information on our programs.