Would it surprise you if I told you that the foundation for the person you are today was based on how you played as a child?
“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children” (Kenneth Ginsburg). Play is crucial to early childhood development because it invites children and parents to explore their environment as well as their imagination. Not only are your children learning about the world around them, they are also developing skills that will help them learn to read and write later.
Though technology is important, and certainly has a place in our lives, it is crucial that your child be exposed to active play. Our community offers an abundance of opportunities for your child to explore through play. There are community parks with playground furniture to play on. There are a number of children’s museums in Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati, that could be utilized to encourage play. There is the YMCA and the Parks department that allow programs for children of all ages. The local public libraries also offer many opportunities for play.
At each of the Boone County Public Libraries, there are a variety of different options for your child to explore and grow through play. There are designated children’s areas with toys, magnets, blocks, and other manipulatives so that they can build their fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills involve small movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, feet and toes. The discovery stations located at each branch definitely allow children to explore through play and build their fine motor skills specifically.
We also offer Storytimes, which encourage a different type of play.. In our storytimes we may use music and movement to get your child up and playing. Through music and movement children are building their gross motor skills, which are targeting their larger muscle groups for movement and coordination through their arms, legs, head and torso. In storytimes we may use a sensory table for them to explore different textures and materials, as well as learning early pouring and measuring skills. As a customer, you can also check out our theme-kits, which offer books, a CD, and often times a craft or activity that you can do at home.
Play doesn’t have to be supervised though. You can easily pull out some old props from your closet as simple as a hat or a purse, and you’ve encouraged dramatic play. You could also encourage play at home with outdoor materials. Grab some leaves and some paper and crayons. Leaf rubbing offers great conversation opportunities where you explore the different parts of a leaf, even explaining why trees need their leaves and the cycle that leaves go through in the fall. You can also make a quick sensory bin yourself. If you take a small plastic tub you can fill it with a base material: sand, beans, water, water beads, shredded paper, etc. Then you add in manipulatives that can be found, picked up with tongs, sorted, etc.
There are a million things that you could do to help your child explore their world through play. Often times, leaving them to their own devices is one of the most productive ways. My fondest childhood memory is “pretending” with my brother outside around our swingset. I would become anything from a bus driver to the sole survivor on a distant planet somewhere.
The point, though, is that inviting your children to play, even if that feels like slacking off to you, is crucial to their early cognitive development and will make them smarter! Let them explore with their imaginations, because it will benefit them more in the long run.
Teresa hails from Irvine, KY, a really small town outside of Richmond. She grew up with a passion for reading, especially children’s literature and recently graduated from Georgetown College with a BA in English. She loves working in a library with so many kids — storytime is her favorite part of the day.