A child’s free play time enhances their education by providing them with lower academic burden and holistic development
Engaging in playtime extends beyond mere enjoyment; it is also a valuable learning experience. Whether interacting with a rattling toy to develop listening skills or catching a ball to enhance hand-eye coordination, play significantly contributes to a child’s essential qualities.
An article by UNICEF titled ‘What is free play and why should you encourage it at home?’ emphasizes that play serves as a vital tool for children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development, fostering their imagination and creativity.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many children were deprived of the opportunity to play with their friends and classmates. Recognizing it as a major learning loss, educators are now focusing on free play in early childhood and primary school education.
Rajesh Bhatia, founder-managing director of Tree House Education & Accessories Ltd, believes that free play is like a playground for growing minds. “It’s where kids learn to think, move, and get along with others. Through play, they become creative problem-solvers, make friends, and practice making choices. Children need free play as a part of their education,” he says.
Here are some ways he believes free play benefits children.
Lowers academic burden
Prioritising academic activities alone is likely to exert undue stress on students. Childhood is a phase where children naturally seek play, triggering a heightened physiological and psychological state without eliciting stress hormones.
Engaging in play typically sparks a genuine desire to learn, kindles determination, and nurtures confidence in their abilities. This not only contributes to a more enriching childhood experience but also alleviates the academic burden and pressure to perform.
Cultivates emotional maturity
Children who consistently have free time for daily play develop a sense of independence, enjoying moments alone or with their peers.
This encouragement of independent thinking contributes to the development of maturity in their thoughts and approaches. Parents, in turn, should support children in relishing playtime with friends, allowing them to enjoy these moments without constantly presenting instructions and guidance during every play session.
Enhances cognitive skills
Children often vocalise their actions while playing, a practice that occurs even when they are playing alone. This not only expands their vocabulary but also reinforces language structures and sentence construction.
Additionally, engaging in action/role-playing games contributes significantly to the improvement of their communication skills. Free play sessions play a pivotal role in enhancing key skills such as attention, perception, and interpreting.
In addition to promoting the mental well-being of students, engaging in active play represents an ideal form of exercise for young children. Participating in activities such as running, jumping, walking, climbing, and other physical games contributes to the development of muscle and bone health.
Furthermore, it aids in the enhancement of stamina, physical coordination, and balance. Research has also demonstrated that active children enjoy better overall health, improved sleep, increased alertness, and a reduced susceptibility to diseases and common illnesses.
Free play also catalyzes creative thinking in children. Activities involving acting, for instance, demand imagination and artistry.
Simultaneously, participation in competitive games helps in the development of problem-solving skills, teamwork, and tactical planning.
Success in these games also instill a sense of accomplishment and valuable experience, which will help in confidence. Even in the defeat in a particular game, a child is learning the importance of perseverance for achieving success, providing a significant life lesson.