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The Role of Play in Cognitive Development

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  • 0:06 Play and Cognitive Development
  • 1:34 Types of Play and Benefits
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jade Mazarin

Jade is a board certified Christian counselor with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certification in Natural Health. She is also a freelance writer on emotional health and spirituality.

When we think of childhood, we often think of playing. But did you know that playing is vital to a child's healthy development? In this lesson, we will learn about the various types of play that aid a child's cognitive growth.

Play and Cognitive Development

Some parents raise their children in a very strict environment. They give their kids a long list of chores around the house, depending on how old they are, and the kids have very little play time. But if those parents knew how much play would benefit the mental and emotional states of the child, maybe they would encourage it more. Research has shown that play benefits children in a large variety of ways. It aids in language development, social interactions, creativity, thinking skills, motor abilities, general intelligence, and even brain growth. And when it happens during childhood, it is taking place at the peak time for fundamental cognitive development.

Welcome to Leila's Academy. Leila's is an elementary school, but it's not just any elementary school. Leila's specializes in developing a child's cognitive abilities by providing several types of play through their school day. The principal of Leila's, Mrs. Marcia, has come to appreciate the growing amount of research that play is not only fun for children but can significantly affect their mental and emotional growth. She has therefore implemented five types of play into her school classes. They include motor or physical play, social play, constructive play, fantasy play, and games with rules. Today we're going to observe what happens at Leila's on a daily basis while the principal shares with us the benefits of each type of play.

Types of Play and Benefits

First stop is art class. Mrs. Marcia starts talking with us: 'Here we will watch the children as they demonstrate constructive play, or play that involves creating and building with different materials. It teaches children how to apply trial and error and how to use materials together. It also helps their self esteem as they feel accomplished after a task is complete.'

The second stop is gym class. We see a group of 7-year-olds running to a line and touching it, then picking up a ball and throwing it to another person. Mrs. Marcia says, 'Motor or physical play includes various physical exercises that are more than just fun. They also strengthen muscles and integrate them with nerve and brain function. In other words, they help develop the body and tone the brain.'

Next up we have recess. We watch as the kids hang out on a small jungle gym and swing. 'This is a time when we let the kids engage in social play,' says Mrs. Marcia. 'Social play is about interacting with other kids in a social setting. This is a good way for kids to learn how to create social skills, be considerate, and take turns.' We also see a teacher going over to a few girls who are pretending to play house. She provides what she later tells us is guided play by pretending to eat the meal the mother had just cooked and asking questions about the household. 'When children are guided into playing make believe, it encourages them to think creatively and connect their thinking with emotions,' Mrs. Marcia tells us.

Third stop is English class. The teacher is guiding the group of students into telling a story. Each child comes up with a few sentences about the story, one after another. The teacher turns to us and says, 'This is what's called fantasy play. Children use their imaginations to come up with new scenarios and ways of working together.' Fantasy play can also be used as pretend play, which we see clearly demonstrated with a girl who holds a tea party and serves her guests make-believe tea and cookies.

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