The Role of Play in Developing Cognitive Skills
Early childhood is a crucial period in the development of strong cognitive skills. While it may seem like all children ’s play is nothing more than entertainment and having fun, the truth is that play has an important role in help to develop vital cognitive skills in years to come.
Cognitive skills are the mental processes that allow us to think, learn, and remember. Cognitive skills help us form patterns and make connections, along with drawing conclusions and solving problems. Without strong cognitive skills, everyday tasks and our academic success in school can be challenging.
Developing Cognitive Skills through Play
By playing, children are developing the mental processes and motor skills which are connected to cognitive development. Play is important for supporting early brain development and reasoning skills, building vocabulary and problem-solving skills, and establishing executive functions.
When we think of play, what first comes to mind is typically traditional games like playing outdoors or tagging, hide and seek, or board games. However, there are many other activities that support healthy cognitive development in children. Playing dress-up, art, and music all help to develop problem-solving and creativity, sorting games provide practice with counting and classifying, and pretend play allows children to use their imagination and practice social skills in a safe and fun environment.
Benefits of Play
The benefits of play extend far beyond cognitive development. Playing also has positive effects on physical and emotional development, and can even reduce stress levels. Playing helps to build strong relationships with other children, develop emotional regulation and resilience, and encourages physical activity and healthy movement.
Encouraging Cognitive Development Through Play
Parents and caregivers can encourage cognitive development through play by:
- Supporting pretend play: Encourage children to use their imagination and express themselves in play by creating storylines and characters.
- Providing structure: Give children structure and rules for playtime. Set up board games and group activities that support cooperative play and encourage turn-taking.
- Creating activities: Encourage sorting games and counting activities that help to develop number recognition skills.
- Building problem-solving skills: Play games to help children learn how to solve problems, such as jigsaw puzzles or STEM-based games.
Through play, children are developing important cognitive skills that will serve as the foundation for success in school and life. Play is key for helping children develop cognitive skills in a way that is fun, engaging, and healthy.