|"Play Is The Work of the Child" Maria Montessori Where do the Children Play?, Cat Stevens, 1970
The benefits of play are well-known and undisputed. Through play, children are learning how things work,
how to use their bodies, how to solve problems, and how to get along with others. Play is an avenue through
which children can express their emotions, build relationships with others, and master difficult
Play activities are essential to healthy development for children and adolescents. Research shows that
75% of brain development occurs after birth. The activities engaged in by children both stimulate and
influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells. This process influences the
development of fine and gross motor skills, language, socialization, personal awareness, emotional well-
being, creativity, problem solving and learning ability.
The most important role that play can have is to help children to be active, make choices and practice
actions to mastery. They should have experience with a wide variety of content (art, music, language,
science, math, social relations) because each is important for the development of a complex and integrated
brain. Play that links sensory-motor, cognitive, and social-emotional experiences provides an ideal setting
for brain development.
According to Montessori, the essential dimensions of play are:
If play is the work of the child, toys are the tools. Through toys, children learn about their world,
themselves, and others. Toys teach children to:
Play content should come from the child’s own imagination and experiences. Unfortunately, the play
experience for today’s child is often quite different from that of their parents. With the ever expanding
influence of electronic media including TV, videos, video games and the internet, children are spending
much of their time being passively entertained by or minimally interacting by way of a keyboard or control
pad with an electronic device.
Even today’s toys are more structured often by onboard computers that dictate the play experience. This
robs children of unstructured play with other kids as well as individual playtime spent in creative play.
Parents need to understand the play needs of their child and provide an environment to meet those needs.
Play is the way that children work out their emotional issues, their fears, and their anxieties. It's the way
they develop a self, a way they develop a sense that they are important people who have ideas to share and
who can get along with other people. Unfortunately, child-initiated, imaginative play is losing out to
academic training and programmed activities in young children's lives, in part because many adults are
unaware of the direct links between children's play and their healthy emotional, social, and intellectual
In a 3-part article from the Post-Gazette, Karen MacPherson writes, "More and more toys are "licensed,"
meaning they are based on television shows, movies and sometimes books. Unlike "open-ended" toys, such
as clay and blocks that can be used in numerous ways, media-based toys are generally single-purpose
playthings. "They 'tell' children how to play and can channel them into playing particular themes in
particular ways -- merely using the toys to try to imitate what they see on the TV and movie screen. As a
result, their imagination, creativity and ability to find interesting problems to explore and solve -- the very
foundation that contributes to children's success in school -- can all be undermined."
The benefits of unstructured play are so great that experts urge parents to try to find an hour a week for it.
And they offer these tips to make getting started easier:
See all three parts of this article:
1. Development experts say children suffer due to lack of unstructured fun
2. Creative play makes better problem-solvers
3. Experts call unstructured play essential to children's growth
A fantastic paper published at the Association for Childhood Education International Website:
PLAY: ESSENTIAL FOR ALL CHILDREN
The Alliance for Childhood has A Campaign to Restore Creative Play and Hands-on Learning in Preschools
and Kindergartens. See "In Defense of Childhood" and the Play Fact Sheet (PDF)
Read an excerpt (Chapter 9, Big A, Little a) from the book, "A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play"
See our Developmental Toys for 0-3 page, Back to Basics page, and Store for toys your kids will enjoy.
Floor-Time Strategies For Children, Adapted From Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder
The most important element of floor-time is your shared enjoyment of an activity with your child. If you two
are having fun, then you're definitely on the right track!
Follow your child's lead and join him or her. It doesn't matter what you do together as long as you are
sharing the activity.
See The "Greenspan" Floor Time Model for specific details and Floor Time Basics for an overview.
The Three Sisters website (link below) has wonderful articles on play, the philosophy of play, toy tips for all
ages, and how to create a play space. Their website has beautiful, natural, open-ended and Waldorf-
inspired toys for children that you can not resist! And they have a great wish-list page so friends and family
don't waste time & money getting toys that your kids will forget about the next day.
Also see our Natural Toys page. Find a play therapist near you at the Association for Play Therapy.
Barbara Cushing, (831)426-8408
Degree: MSW Credential: LCSW
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Play Power, Sharron Krull, (925)980-8353
|© Copyright, 2007-2011 Sensorize, Sensorized All rights reserved.
Use the information provided on this site as an educational resource for determining your options and making your
own informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness.
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