Play is an essential part of a child's cognitive, social and emotional development. From a young age, it is through play that children engage and explore their environment, developing confidence, resilience and stimulation.
Benefits of play:
- Helps develop and improve social skills – By playing with others, a child learns sharing, self-control, and acceptable behavior. The skills learned in group play can help form the basis of a child's social skills.
- Allows a child to express his or her creativity and imagination - freedom to explore, gain confidence. Make-believe play is a great form of expression.
- Relieves stress – helps a child to grow emotionally. Sitting and playing with toys or going outside to play provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.
- Improves verbal communication – pretend play allows the child to practice their own vocabulary.
- Play and laughter are an important tool for all involved – it is a time to let yourself go. Laughing, singing, being joyous and being flexible makes play so much more fun.
- It is the biggest learning tool a child can have - play and learning go hand-in-hand, from birth everything they learn is through play.
- Empowers and builds confidence - having a choice of activities for toddlers and older children make them feel big and in control. Within reason, play time is an opportunity to allow them to choose what they will do.
- Boosts self-awareness and self-esteem - play helps a child feel successful in what he or she is doing, and this leads to a feeling of accomplishment.
- Encourages spontaneity – letting the child take out toys and play with whatever he or she prefers.
- Develops empathy – when playing with other children they grow to have a better understanding of other peoples’ feelings.
- Encourages curiosity and adventure – exploring and testing the unknown. Playing with new things with adult supervision heightens their curiosity and desire to learn.
- Improves concentration – helps with formal learning as they get older. If they can concentrate on play, it will only help in the class -- after all play is learning.
Play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood. Appropriate relationships with loving and consistent caregivers who relate to their children are critical to a child’s development. Playing with your child and giving them full attention helps to build a special and meaningful relationship. Even twenty minutes a day is enough to make a child feel special and have something to look forward to.
How does all this become relevant to a hospitalized child?
When a child is hospitalized, they are vulnerable and often afraid. Having their parent(s) there will help comfort them. Play becomes even more important at these times because it something from their pre-hospital life that they can bring into the hospital. The familiarity of the activity can reduce his or her stress and anxiety.
Play is a form of communication and self-expression that can provide a child the opportunity to communicate with family and friends.It can help the child to express feeling of concerns to their parent(s) or qualified hospital staff member.