The game is an activity, as well as pleasant, necessary for the cognitive (intellectual) and affective (emotional) development of the child. Spontaneous and free play favors the child's creativity and encourages their maturation. Children have few opportunities to play freely. Sometimes, we consider that "playing to play" is a waste of time and that it would be more profitable to take advantage of every opportunity to learn something useful.
However, through play, children begin to understand how things workWhat can or cannot be done with them, they discover that there are rules of causality, probability, and behavior that must be accepted if they want others to play with them. Children's games should be regarded as their most serious acts, Montaigne said.
Spontaneous play is full of meaning because it arises due to internal processes that even if we do not understand we must respect. If you want to know children - their conscious and unconscious world - it is necessary to understand their games; By observing these we discover their evolutionary acquisitions, their concerns, their fears, those needs and desires that they cannot express in words and that find an outlet through play.
The types of children's games show their evolution:
- In the stage of acquisition of sensory-motor skills, it is recommended functional games, action games, sensations and movements.
- In the early stages of the child's thinking, in which he begins to think about carrying out specific operations, the following are recommended fictional, symbolic or representation games.
- At the stage of formal thinking and concentration, the best are regulated and structured games, sports, competition. In addition, the symbolic or fictional gameis the most appreciated; forced to adapt to an adult social world and a physical reality that they do not yet understand, the child needs to invent his own world based on what he lives, but translating it into a symbolic, personal language, with which to adapt that external world to his needs . Through the fictional game the child assimilates this external world little by little, elaborates it and adapts to it in a continuous process of maturation.
Children begin to use symbols from the second year of life (for example, by pointing to a dog saying "woof" or by pretending to drink from a cup), repeating performances they have seen in adults, representing events they have lived or imitating the operation of certain objects. In this imitation of the child, the assimilation of the situations and relationships that he observes in the world around him takes place. Part of concrete models to, later, reach concentration.
The symbolic function is a goal for representation common to play and other human activities such as language. When the acquisition and use of the symbolic function fails (aphasia, autism, mental deficiency ...), the importance of it in personal maturation and the need to promote the practice of spontaneous play in childhood so that the appropriate levels in each evolutionary stage.
Sometimes certain difficulties, which perhaps seem insurmountable to the child, can be dealt with through games, provided they are approached in their own way and by raising the aspects of the problem one by one.
Jealousy over the birth of a new sibling, for example, is a common type of conflict, which usually appears masked in games as a reaction to internal processes that the child himself is unaware of, but which will help him to accept that reality, by representing the problem in a new and pleasing way for him, such as when he treats his doll the same way he wants to be treated or when he reacts in his game as he would like to have done in reality. In the game there is an adaptation between what is imaginable (everything is possible) and what is allowed (rules of conduct), in which the child has time to learn what is feasible and correct while allowing a graceful exit to his impulses.
- Play is necessary for intellectual, emotional and social development.
- Allows three basic functions of psychic maturation: assimilation, understanding and adaptation of external reality.
- It requires offering the child the time and favorable means so that he can do it in his own way.
- Promotes early social acquisitions, social communication skills. It is a preparation for adult life.
- As an exploratory behavior, it encourages the creation of fields of action and creativity.
- It has a meaning for the child. When any game is interrupted, he is deprived of the outcome of an argument created by himself with a purpose that we do not always understand.
Information prepared by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture
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