How Important Is Play To Your Child?
Kiasu parents in Singapore know the importance of early development more than ever. Read on to find out how playtime is essential for your child’s early physical, cognitive and mental development.
Play has always been a natural part of children’s development. From a young age, children’s desire to explore their fascinating new world is accomplished through play.
Most parents understand the importance of play as part of their children’s cognitive, physical and mental development and will send their children to participate in kids’ sports programmes or other fun activities to facilitate this development.
However, with Singapore’s rapid economic development, parents have become more and more obsessed with academic success. This has lead them to enrol their kids in early education classes in order to give them a headstart in school and depriving them of playtime with their friends.
Parents are leaning towards replacing or limiting playtime for more academic-related pursuits such as language tuition, music, and study skills programmes. Even in schools, children’s playtime during their free periods seems to be reduced by additional curriculum time made up of remedial and supplementary classes. All of which goes to show that playtime is seen as insignificant by many of the current generations of young parents.
How important is play to your child?
How important is play to your child? Extremely! There are numerous reasons why play is such an important part of your child’s healthy growth and development.
Learning to explore
Play enables children to explore their environment. Infants play by trying to grasp objects within their reach and examine these objects in detail thereby developing their fine motor skills as they learn about the world around them.
For toddlers, play may appear as bad behaviour when they pick up objects only to fling them down on the floor the next moment. While toddlers find great delight in this activity, it can be highly frustrating for the parent or caregiver looking after them! However, it’s important for adults to remember that this style of play helps toddlers understand the three-dimensional spatial world better.
Another favourite with toddlers is “peek-a-boo”. This game helps them learn about object permanence; that just because they cannot see something, doesn’t mean that it is no longer there.
Developing Communication and Social Skills
As children develop, play evolves but continues to have an important role in their growth and development. Play helps children to develop positive relationships with their playmates and that includes parents who are actively involved. Children use their imagination while they play to create fantastical worlds and then share these worlds using their communication and social skills.
Children learn early on that being able to communicate with others is necessary to make friends and play with others. Learning to share toys and their play area becomes necessary for group play to be fun. They begin to appreciate the value of their playmates and learn the idea of friendship.
Many parents use these situations to teach and reinforce appropriate social behaviours. To do this effectively, these parents actively engage with their children; be it as a keen observer looking out for teachable moments or as a playmate constantly modelling appropriate social behaviours.
Learning how to live
Another important value of play that we tend to take for granted is that it teaches children how to live in this challenging and rapidly changing world. Even lion cubs play with each other and this is Mother Nature’s way of teaching them to hone their hunting and survival skills. For humans, it can be just as applicable for preparing our children to live and hone the necessary skills to live and flourish in the community.
They learn to be creative in their play from their make-believe worlds and by finding ways to successfully overcome challenges. By learning what they like playing with, how to get along with others and whom they value spending time with, children are showing the many benefits associated with playtime.
They learn the need to cooperate with their playmates to achieve a common goal and also how to deal with defeats and setbacks as much as they learn to celebrate their victories. Through play, kids learn when and how to take the lead and when to be a follower, setting them up to be good team players for life.
Being physically active
Lastly, learning to enjoy physical activity during playtime is crucial to leading a healthy life. There is a growing trend of childhood obesity due to a lack of physical activity1, a trend that is rapidly becoming an epidemic.
The study also projected, that if nothing is done to get kids to become more active, half of the American and Chinese populations will be physically inactive by 20302. Based on the last national health survey here, 8.6% of Singaporeans were found to be obese. While this may number is low by comparison, the fact that it was just 6.8% in 2004 and 5.5 in 1992 shows a concerning trend3.
In order for kids to fully benefit from all of the advantages associated with playtime, they need to complement it with a healthy and nutrient-rich diet. This diet will help to ensure that they have the energy necessary to keep up with their friends as well as supporting healthy brain and body development.
Some of the essential vitamins and nutrients that need to be in kids’ diets include vitamin A, vitamin D and DHA.
Vitamin A helps improve your child’s eyesight and contributes to healthier bone growth. It also boosts their immune system4. The key to packing your kid’s diet with vitamin A is by giving them colourful fruits and vegetables including carrots, bell peppers, mango and papaya. Some other good sources of vitamin A include scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese5.
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient that works together with calcium to build and strengthen bones. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Generally, this means that kids in Singapore are not at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. However, for those with darker skin6 or those who don’t spend much time in the sun, a vitamin D deficiency is something to be mindful of.
Finally, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA plays a significant role in supporting brain growth and development7. Did you know that children reach 90% of their full brain weight by the age of six?8 Parents need to make sure that their kids are getting their WHO recommended daily levels of DHA in order to fully support their cognitive development9.
It’s true that there are many foods that naturally contain DHA including mackerel, flaxseeds, salmon fish oil and cod liver oil. The issue for many parents is that their kids do not want to eat any of these foods!
Finding alternatives such as milk formula, multivitamins and other sources of these nutrients can be another option for parents.
6https://medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html “People with dark skin, which has less ability to produce vitamin D from the sun.”