Play is play, isn’t it – what is there to misunderstand? You’d be surprised! There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about play, such as:
1. Play is a waste of time
Absolutely not! Play is how children make sense of their world. Unstructured play gives children the freedom to explore and experiment with objects, actions and social interactions and start to make sense of this crazy world they find themselves in.
2. Play is only for children
Have some fun and rediscover the child in you. It’s a great stress-reliever, good for health and great for relationships!
3. Play has to have a purpose
It’s common to think that play needs a purpose, and that if it’s not educational, there’s no benefit. Just because the child may not be learning to read or write from their play does not mean that they are not developing social skills, hand eye co-ordination and other skills that will help them in later life.
4. Bad parents leave children to play unsupervised
Once a safe area is established parents can usually leave children alone (depending on the age of the child and who else is around). The more a parent is involved in playing the more the child is following their lead, rather than playing independently. And although it is good for parents to play with their children, the opportunity for child-led play is also key to development.
5. Babies aren’t old enough to play
As soon as babies can respond to other people, they can start to play. A baby giggling and smiling is one of the most rewarding experiences for new parents. Start with simple games such as ‘Peekaboo‘ and watch their sense of fun develop.
6. All children can play
Whilst it is natural to expect all children to be able to play, some have been deprived of the opportunity to do so and playfulness can be conditioned out of children who may become fearful of playing. With this in mind, try not to over-react when a game ends in tears or you find all the Play-doh mushed together and squished into the carpet!
7. You need toys to play
One of the biggest myths is that you need toys to play, or that play cannot be free. There are so many ways to encourage free play using the objects surrounding you in day to day life.
8. Technology hinders play
Not all technology is bad; many interactive toys and apps have been known to enhance children’s knowledge and develop their logic and thinking skills. Certain television programmes can encourage role play and decision making, so don’t demonise it – just make sure it is part of a balanced play diet and ensure that kids get plenty of fresh air and active play too.
9. Creative play is messy
Not all arts and crafts and creative play has to be messy. There are many craft sets for children out there that require little space and little clearing up. However, teaching your child to tidy up after messy play should be encouraged – it’s all part of the learning process!
10. Children are not safe playing outside unsupervised
It’s common to think that children are not safe outside of the house unsupervised. If we all stay afraid, the often irrational fear of stranger danger wins. Would it not be better for children to once again be able to play freely in the community? Teaching your children road safety and general safety awareness will give them the tools they need to assess hazards in their environment themselves.