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The Importance of Play in Preschool

All play and no work? Indeed, education experts equate children’s playtime as a critical factor in strengthening their academic focus prior to their even entering elementary school.  Structured playtime is actually work for children under five, and the skills they learn during these activities are intended to give your tot a leg up on their academic performance as they move forward, beyond preschool.

All Types of Play Are not Equal, But All Are Important

As your child gets older, they engage in a ladder like construction of play that develops in sophistication.  For instance, toddlers play by themselves with little interest in interacting with their peers as they explore their brand new surroundings.  This phase, known as solitary play, transitions into parallel play around age two where two like-minded children sit side-by- side as they play with the same toys, but each child is decidedly doing their own thing, and more likely than not each kid considers each toy their own.

While the solitary activity might seem to belie the fact that learning is going on, the reality is that each child is watching and listening to their compatriot’s activities, and forming cognitive judgments based on those shared times and experiences.  Indeed, this period serves as a bridge between the first two stages of play and the latter two developments known as associative and cooperative play.

Associative play witnesses two children playing independently, but they are accomplishing the same tasks and mirroring one another.  Therefore, if one child is acting like a truck, you can believe that the other children in the group are likewise out on the imaginary road, and while the children are still acting alone, they are beginning to communicate and interact through sharing, talking, and taking turns.

Finally, cooperative play, beginning during the fourth and fifth years, is driven by the children’s ability to communicate game rules and ideas with one another.  With five years of game play under their belts, at this stage kids aren’t shy by this time about getting the imaginary rules of their imaginary games right.

Developing the Cognitive Skills of Playtime

Beyond merely filling the time in between naps, an active playtime helps promote increased physical and language skills, but equally important this interactive time helps boost additional long-term factors like self-confidence and social development skills.

Developing fine motor skills, communicative behavior, and learning the ins-and-outs of social dynamics are all benefits of preschool playtime, and under the structured supervision of a qualified teacher, such development can truly blossom in children who are playing together in the preschool environment.


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