12 Jul The Importance of Dramatic Playtime
With rising pressures, kids are being put through more academically focused curriculum’s in school at a very early age. This has led to the question of how important the “pretend” play of early childhood is, and whether play is a luxury and sacrificing it for time spent learning the alphabet is really worthwhile in the long run.
The conclusion from years of research is this: playtime is linked to cognitive and social skills. As children get older and their play gets more sophisticated, their playtime can help them improve upon their literacy skills, develop memory, symbol recognition, oral language skills, self-regulation, social skills and other improvements that are an essential part of growing up. In other words, children need play time that is productive.
Playtime can be unproductive, for instance when kids fight over who gets to be a character in the roleplay, or when kids routinely carry out the same behaviors in their roleplay. Playtime is productive when kids pretend by negotiating, talking to other kids and use props as symbols. Pretend games where rules are created and kids establish specific roles and adopt multiple roles and themes, can also be beneficial in their development.
Why Children Need Playtime
When kids engage in productive play in their early years, they learn to prioritize actions and goals. They learn to consider perspectives of others and learn symbolic representation, how to delay gratification, how to regulate their behaviors and reach other such developmental milestones.
This in turn helps kids to be more attentive and considerate of others in the classroom. These are plenty of reasons to encourage a child to engage in playtime in the early years. While learning the ABCs and how to count are important while preparing the kindergartner for their initiation into the first grade, it is important to remember that teachers do not expect kindergartners to have mastered their addition and ABCs. But they do expect kids to be able to pay attention in class, concentrate on their work and also be considerate of the needs of others. These are skills that will be developed during the playtime with peers and will help them tremendously.
How to Encourage Playtime
Kids today do not have enough pretend playtime at home because of distractions from the television, computer and videos, as well as toys that do not help to build imagination. Wherever possible, children should be encouraged to engage in pretend playtime with other children in the neighbourhood or with their siblings. In cases where these are not available, parents may be able to find play groups organized by adults, with kids of various ages and older mentors getting together for dramatic roleplaying.
Early classrooms and preschools that provide a setting where such dramatic play is encouraged will help kids to develop important social and mental skills. The presence of other kids to play with and guiding adults who can encourage this kind of pretend play should be available to every child, and highly encouraged by parents and the community.