Dr Gummer, a resident expert on www.ukmums.tv, explains why play is so important for kids and not just a reward or a waste of time:
In the past, little thought was given to the importance of play and how it contributed to the developing child, so it is natural that some parents see it as simply a fun activity, a reward, or even a waste of time.
However, the government, teachers and Ofsted have all realised that play helps children learn. Incorporating fun themes to children’s learning makes the experience more memorable for them and also less daunting so they will be more likely to do it again – bingo, they’re learning!
There is a difference between helping a child to learn and pushing a child to learn. Books such as “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards…” explain how children who are pressured early on do not fare any better than children who are allowed to take their time.
The advice is simple: children learn best through simple playtime which enhances problem solving skills, attention span, social development and creativity.
When it comes to play, what’s most important are the social skills children learn. Relationships are the bedrock of society and children who play develop mutually rewarding relationships learn to compromise, communicate and negotiate, all of which give them much better outlooks for future careers and mental health.
The mistake that many people make is to believe that because you don’t always know what the child is going to learn through play, they’re not learning anything.
Even the most frivolous activity is beneficial for children as it helps them understand themselves better – learning what makes you happy and what makes you laugh helps children cope with challenges and acts as a buffer against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
So remember – play is vital to a child’s healthy development and not just something to be done as a reward or an afterthought.
I'm all for 'surreptitious' and incidental learning. Having a child with PDA means it's trickier than usual to make suggestions of 'fun' things to do, and even trickier to get any obvious 'work' done - so I know how important it is to fit the learning discreetly into our play times. I think it's working, so far!
Visit the site www.maketime2play.co.uk for more information and some great ideas on how to amuse yourselves this holiday - and in fact every day. Rain or shine, you can always put down that smartphone (ahem) and spend some quality time with the children. You know there's nothing they love better, if you're honest.