Early childhood play has a larger and more significant purpose in child development than just entertainment. According to Piaget, constructive play allows children to hone their comprehension of concepts before they can understand abstract thinking. Various specialists have ascribed reasons such as socialization, development of communication and exploration skills, and cognitive growth to play. Regardless of the reason, we know that early childhood play is vital for maturation of toddlers into well-adjusted children and adults who know their role and place in society.
Constructive Play Today
Early childhood play today has changed in scope and scale, involving more advanced toys and games, but also edging out group playing and personal interaction. Learning games for children have been replaced by gaming and television that allow them to keep busy on their own, thereby reducing the development of social skills. Violence in early childhood play is a huge concern for parents today, as well as the growing popularity of sedentary games that has led to obesity in children.
Constructive play has taken a back seat with technology and electronics growing more popular now. With double-income families, parents and caregivers have less time to spend with their children and are likely to leave them watching the television. However, early childhood play allows a chance to introduce children to learning games and constructive play that help in the long run.
Learning Games for Children
Constructive play is different from the everyday play that children indulge in because it has a goal of teaching the child a new skill or concept, or of honing abilities. Abilities such as spatial skills, and concepts of size, weight, height, distance are made easier to comprehend when learned through play. Constructive play gives children a chance to improve their problem-solving skills, sharing skills, their motor skills and to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Some of the most effective learning games for children are inexpensive and use items found around the house. Important points for parents or caregivers to remember are:
- Play should be safe and non-violent
- Learning games for children should encourage participation, not elimination
- Children should be asked to use their imaginations and creativity in constructive play
Early Childhood Games
Some suggestions for constructive play or learning games for children:
1. Build cubby holes or secret homes by draping tables with blankets or sheets. Children could decorate them as a haunted house, a school, a hospital for their stuffed toys, or a wigwam
2. Painting and coloring of household waste like cardboard cartons, egg trays, tubes, plastic tubs, etc.
3. Outdoor activities like helping with gardening, building rock gardens, bird trays
4. Cutting and pasting colored paper and foil or fabric to make collages
5. Playing with animals, going for walks on beaches or in parks
Role of Adults in Early Childhood Play
During early childhood play, apart from ensuring that children are safe, adults have a significant role to play. Parents and caregivers can provide a variety of toys and instruments for learning games for children. A suggestion or a question from parents or caregivers can lead the child to question his/her own understanding and come up with imaginative solutions also. Dealing with disputes and encouraging participation are areas in which adults can help simple early childhood play turn into constructive play.
- Constructive Play. Govt of Western Australia
- Constructive Play. Ministry of Education, NZ
- Role of Play in Children’s Learning. Open Learn.