Mishka asked me the other day: “Mommy when did you stop playing?” Wow! What a question because as we all like to claim we never stop playing (at the risk of sounding boring to your kids). It got me thinking about this question a little bit more in depth because is there a age you should stop playing, or at least worry about what you play with?
I played well into my high-school years because I had younger siblings, but this may be different for Mishka because she is an only child.
What is play? Well it is defined as: “what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons.” I just love that! Because now I can answer Mishka much better: I am still playing, I never stopped and never will!
Thinking back to Mishka’s baby years I was quite tuned into the different types of activities at the various ages for developmental purposes but now that she’s a bit older I guess we just let it happen as it happens because of course now she has her own little personality and preferences.
However, there are good guidelines to makes sure that while your child is developing physically, toys and games are adjusted accordingly. The ways in which children are able to coordinate their gross-motor skills such as increased mobility opens up new ways to use toys. A higher level of fine-motor skill permits greater manipulation of objects.
Mishka is now at a very interesting stage where soon she will fall into a next age group and certain activities she enjoys now will very soon become boring and predictable. Research shows that chidren aged between 8 and 9 (Mishka is turning 9 this year) continue to enjoy outdoor play, seeking to master specialised physical skills. Because she is much stronger she prefers riskier games and particularly more complex games involving set rules. Problem solving, organizing, riddles and collecting all kinds of things are particularly favoured at this age.
Games for 8 to 9 year old children may include: complex hand games, jacks, snapping fingers, tying a bow, constructing models, operating hand puppets, needlepoint, sewing, weaving, and braiding, hide and seek, tag, and sports of all kinds.
Her next stage will most probably involve much more advanced motor skills and thinking. I better get ready for some serious creative activities such as woodworking, staging plays and generating computer graphics.
Well, that brings me to my list of reasons why play is important, whether it is with toys, friends or outdoors:
Children who play:
- increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
- improve and maintain their physical and mental health
- give them the opportunity to mix with other children
- allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
- promote their imagination, independence and creativity
- offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
- provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
- build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
- provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.
I hope Mishka continues to be so curious about exploring her backyard, I find myself learning again and again because she collects all kinds of different leave shapes and shells and ask me loads of questions. This I think is why giving a child time to play is so important in stimulating thinking and learning.