Play is at the heart of children’s everyday lives and experiences – from birth to adulthood.
It is through play that children have the opportunity to learn about themselves and the world around them. We all love to play, and probably have great memories of our own childhood play experiences. In today’s modern society however, children don’t always have the same opportunities to play that we may have had. It is vitally important therefore that childminders can meet the never ending play needs of the children in their care.
Play is crucial for the development of children – they learn through play! Play teaches children social skills such as sharing, taking turns, self discipline and tolerance of others.
Children’s lives are enhanced by playing creatively and through play, children learn and develop as individuals; it assists in their emotional and intellectual development and mental health resilience which are core building blocks for their transition years. Play is equally important for children’s physical growth and development.
When playing there is no “right way” or “wrong way” for children - they follow their own instincts and can use their can imagination in their own way - without being led by adults.
We therefore need to encourage ‘unstructured’ free play where possible. Children cannot always enjoy what they would regard as play, when adults make all the key decisions about what, when and how. Obviously the amount of ‘adult led’ activity is determined by the age, stage and particular needs of the children. Children and young people – whatever their age, ability, culture, ethnicity or social and economic background, need and want to play, indoors and out, in whatever way they can.
Children’s play needn’t cost anything except time. It may or may not involve equipment or have an end product. Children will often create play materials from whatever is available – this is often known as playing with ‘Loose Parts’. Children play on their own and with others. Their play may be boisterous and energetic or quiet and contemplative, light-hearted or very serious.
In Northern Ireland children and young people’s play has been given recognition through the development of a Play and Leisure Policy. All children have the right to play as enshrined in the ‘United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’ in which ‘Article31’ states:
"Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."
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This document is full of crafty ideas to do with children of all ages.