Dr. Courtney Knapp

Child & Adolescent Psychologist Serving Orange County, California

Why Play is Important

Garry Landreth, a child-centered play therapist, has stated that play is the language of children, toys are their words, and that play is their natural medium of communication.  Children express themselves more fully and directly through self-initiated, spontaneous play than they do verbally because they are more comfortable with play.  The Child Development Institute discusses types of play.  Children engage in several types of play and each helps a child to develop certain skills.  Motor play provides opportunities for children to develop gross and fine muscle strength and overall integration of muscles, nerves, and brain functions. Social play helps children learn social rules such as cooperation and moral reasoning. Constructive play is when children manipulate their environment to create things. This type of play occurs when children build towers and play in the sand.  Constructive play helps children learn basic knowledge about stacking, building, drawing, making music and constructing. It also gives children a sense of accomplishment and empowers them with control of their environment.  Fantasy play helps children learn to think abstractly, try out new roles, and to experiment with language and emotions. In addition, children develop flexible thinking; use new words and word combinations.  Games With Rules teach children a critically important concept – the game of life has rules (laws) that we all must follow to function productively.  In summary, play provides a means through which conflicts can be resolved and feelings can be communicated.

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