The importance of play

Here is another good piece from The Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart

The Importance of Play

It is generally through play that a preschool child learns about the world around her and then assimilates what she has learned into her concept of reality.

Preschool children enjoy three different forms of play: physical, manipulative, and symbolic.
Physical play refers to activities that involve the use of the muscles. These activities emphasize action, and include running, hopping, jumping, climbing, throwing, sliding and playing with a ball.
Manipulative play refers to activities by which a child learns to gain better control over her environment. These activities include the use of puzzles and building blocks (which also require some physical play skills) as well as games that involve social manipulation (“What can I do to make Daddy come to me?”)

Symbolic play involves manipulation, not of people, but of events and objects. These play activities
would include the use of fantasy, pretend play, and nonsense rhymes. In symbolic play, a child can
change events, identities, and emotions for the sake of her play, thereby gaining more complete control over her newly created world. In a child’s life, play has many important effects on development.

Physical development. Play activities that involve physical exercise help to promote a child’s general health. Specific activities that involve, for example, perceptual-motor skills also help to develop the child’s eyehand coordination.

Cognitive development. Through play a young child is able to try out her understanding of how the world works. What we see in a child’s play is not just trucks, dolls, teacups and saucers. It is the child’s cognitive conception of the world as she experiences and understands it.

Emotional development. Perhaps the single most important contribution of play to emotional
development is the role it has in the formation of a child’s self-concept. Play is also a means by which a child can deal with emotional conflicts (for example, by using puppets to talk about hurt feelings).

Social development. In play activities, a child has an opportunity to experiment with different roles,
power relationships, and rules. For example, a young child may tell a doll or teddy bear to “sit in a corner” for some type of misbehaviour. Because young children enjoy play, it becomes a very natural way for them to learn about themselves and the world in which they live.

So, the next time you see your child engaged in play, you will know that she is not just “messing about.” She is engaged in the “work of childhood,” namely, promoting her physical, cognitive, emotional and social development.

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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