Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Fisher-Price’s Director of Child Research Dr Kathleen Alfano, and listen to hear speak to her experience of seeing kids play all around the world. I loved hearing her perspective, as I’ve always been fascinated by cultural similarities and differences in families. One of the points Dr Alfano made was that children around the world follow more or less the same developmental path, and that play is universal – young children play in a similar way all around the world.
Play is not just a frivolous activity, though. According to Dr Alfano, regardless of their cultural background or upbringing, kids NEED to play. Play helps children develop spacial skills, social skills, self-regulation, communication and more! “Through play,” Dr Alfano explained, “children learn about themselves and others, about how things work, and about the world around them.”
Of course, toys help to facilitate children’s play. According to Jeffrey Goldstein (“Play in Children’s Development, Health and Well-Being”), “Play contributes directly to children’s education and development. But it is toys that stimulate and prolong play. If children are to discover what they are good at, what they like, and what they are like, then they will need variety in their play, and a broad assortment of toys to make it possible.”
So the next time you feel like skipping the housework in favour of playing with your kids – give in to the impulse, and don’t underestimate the power of play. As Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”