PLAY IN PRESCHOOL WHY IT MATTERS?
PRESCHOOL PLAY ACTIVITY LINKS
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WHY IT MATTERS?
Parents often hear of the importance of play in preschool. But
playing with dolls and blocks seems to have little to do with
the academic knowledge that children will need to succeed in
kindergarten. So why is it so important?
Play is the foundation for all learning for young children, and
giving your child the time and a few basic toys can provide her
with a variety of valuable learning opportunities.
“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world,”
says Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center
in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over
20 years. “Children's play unlocks their creativity and imagination,
and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well
as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation
Why is play so important and what do preschoolers learn when they
play? Try a few of these simple ideas with items you have around
your house and learn about the educational benefits that each can
provide for your child.
Language and Vocabulary Development
When playing with other children or adults, vocabulary and language
skills are fostered. Your child will listen and learn the language
she hears without even realizing. Children will learn to use
language to communicate meaning as well as picking up new words and
hearing the grammatical structure of the English language.
•Vehicles and Animals. Playing with cars, trucks and trains as well
as animals provides for many new vocabulary words as children learn
the names of each, what they do, what they eat or where you can find
them. Additionally, children and adults can create all kinds of
scenarios that the vehicles or animals might find themselves in,
providing for further language and vocabulary development.
•Dollhouse and Dolls. Playing with a dollhouse or dolls allows your
child to reenact what happens in her everyday life, using the words
and phrases she hears. You are likely to hear your own words come
out of her mouth as she recreates events that have happened, perhaps
with an outcome more suited to her liking!
Imagination and Creativity
In our fast paced and high tech society, children have fewer and
fewer opportunities to use and develop their creativity. Children
who are not given frequent opportunities to play may have a
difficult time entertaining themselves as they simply do not know
what to do without instruction. By providing opportunities for open
ended play, your child will automatically get her creative juices
flowing, and the possibilities are endless.
•Dramatic Play. provide a few props such as dishes and play food,
empty food boxes and a cash register or stuffed animals and a
doctor’s kit, and your child will be transported into a different
place! Watch and be amazed at what she will come up with as she
•Craft Supplies. Without a specific project complete, provide your
child with a variety of craft supplies such as markers and crayons,
scraps of fabric or paper, empty boxes or containers, glue, buttons
and stickers. Allow her to create anything she likes and watch her
inner artist emerge!
Problem Solving and Mathematics
Children can solve complex problems that arise as they play and learn
a few mathematical principals as well. Blocks and puzzles are excellent
“basics” to provide your child with many opportunities to foster these
•Blocks. Playing with blocks provides for many problem solving scenarios.
How can we make it balance? How tall can we make this tower? Can we build
a castle? Children also learn some basic math concepts with the various
shapes and sizes of the blocks.
•Puzzles. When trying to make puzzle pieces fit, children are gaining
important math and problem solving experience. Learning a bit about
sizes (is the piece too big for that spot?) and shapes (does the shape
of the piece look the same as the hole?) You can encourage this learning
by engaging in conversations as your child plays. Your child will also
gain an important sense of accomplishment as her practice leads to a
completed puzzle in the end.
Gross and Fine Motor Development
Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the legs and arms while
fine motor development is building the muscles of the hands that will
be used for writing. Play can provide many opportunities to work on
strengthening these muscles without your child even being aware of it!
•Stringing Beads and Lacing. Giving children beads and plastic tipped
laces provide a fun way to work on fine muscle control. Your child can
create a beautiful necklace while strengthening the fine motor muscles.
Lacing cards or child safe needles and burlap will also provide fun
“sewing” projects for young children.
•Balls and Balance Beams. Kicking balls and walking on balance beams can
help your child become more coordinated. Get outside and kick a ball
around, create a goal area to make it a game. Anytime you see a narrow
brick wall or wooden plank, give your child some assisted practice at
Gather up the toys you have around the house and make it a point to
provide ample time for play. Playing around with your child is sure
to provide many wonderful childhood memories and reap some great
educational benefits as well!
Play in Preschool: Why it Matters
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Learning through play is the primary focus for teaching preschool
aged children. Games are a fantastic opportunity to spend time
playing with your preschooler while they learn new skills or
practice to strength current abilities.
By providing games that are age appropriate, with a focus on
various skills, your preschooler can learn and grow every time
Tips for finding and playing preschool games online:
When you look for activities for your child focus on educational
preschool games or games with a focus on a specific skill.
If your child has a favorite game, look for similar games to help
diversify their experiences or simply create your own variation
to their favorites.
Encourage play time with both games that require thinking and problem
solving as well as games that include movement to help diversify your
Make sure to choose games that are age and skill appropriate specific
to your child’s abilities. Start young children with easy preschool
games and progress into more challenging activities as your child’s
Although it’s good to encourage challenging activities, make sure your
child will have a good opportunity to succeed. Play time isn’t fun if
it’s always a struggle.
Introduce new game ideas to help your broaden their interests and learn
to try new things.
Just about any activity can be turned into a game by simply creating a
challenge around it such as “who do you think can build the tallest
Use every day items from around the house to easily create new games
from favorite ideas such as;
Play online preschool games as well as outdoor games and tangible indoor
games with similar themes to help strength core areas of learning.
Create a game box that your preschooler has easy access to that includes
simple activities they can manage on their own.
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In psychology and ethology, play is a range of voluntary,
intrinsically motivated activities normally associated
with recreational pleasure and enjoyment. Play is most
commonly associated with children and their juvenile-level
activities, but play can also be a useful adult activity,
and occurs among other higher-functioning (non-human)
animals as well.
The California based National Institute for Play describes
seven play patterns:
1. Attunement play, which establishes a connection, such as
between newborn and mother.
2. Body play, in which an infant explores the ways in which
his or her body works and interacts with the world, such
as making funny sounds or discovering what happens in a fall.
3. Object play, such as playing with toys, banging pots and
pans, handling physical things in ways that use curiosity.
4. Social play, play which involves others in activities such
as tumbling, making faces, and building connections with
another child or group of children.
5. Imaginative or pretend play, in which a child invents
scenarios from his or her imagination and acts within them
as a form of play, such as princess or pirate play.
6. Storytelling play, the play of learning and language that
develops intellect, such as a parent reading aloud to a child,
or a child retelling the story in his or her own words.
7. Creative play, by which one plays with imagination to
transcend what is known in the current state, to create a
higher state. For example, a person might experiment to
find a new way to use a musical instrument, thereby taking
that form of music to a higher plane; or, as Einstein was
known to do, a person might wonder about things which are
not yet known and play with unproven ideas as a bridge to
the discovery of new knowledge.
Separate from self-initiated play, play therapy is used as
a clinical application of play aimed at treating children
who suffer from trauma, emotional issues and other problems.
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Playwork is the work of creating and maintaining spaces for children
The theory and practice of playwork recognises that children's play
should ideally be 'freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically
motivated.' Children's play must not be 'adulterated' (corrupted) by
any adult or external agendas.
It is the job of a playworker to ensure that the broadest possible range
of play types can be engaged in or accessed by children, and to observe,
reflect and analyse the play that is happening and select a mode of
intervention or make a change to the play space if needed.
The profession has its roots in the early adventure playground movement
and can now be studied to degree and masters levels.
Playwork should not be confused with childcare.
A qualification in playwork relates to working with school aged children
and should not be confused with qualifications more suited to work in
early years or youth work. Playworkers in the UK can now study for a
foundation degree in playwork at various higher education establishments.
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Great Indoor Games & Activities
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Games for Preschoolers
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Activities for preschoolers
Fall Preschool Activities Theme
Free Preschool Activities and Worksheets
Games For Preschool
Importance of Outdoor Play at Preschool
The Importance of Play in Preschool
International Play Association IPA World
The National Institute for Play
Physical Activity and Fitness for Preschoolers
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Preschool Activity Theme
Preschool Games & Activities
The Play Foundation
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Academic Educational Encyclopedia
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