Why is play important in child therapy?
Jul 16, 2021
Many parents are tempted to make their young children take advantage of the time by learning as much as they can, rather than spending many hours a week playing. However, this is a serious mistake: the game is not only not "wasting time", but in childhood it is the experience that the youngest use to learn naturally and spontaneously. And this also applies to knowledge that goes beyond the academic world: managing emotions, socializing, adopting values, etc.
Thus, play is a valuable tool used by both child psychologists and educational psychologists when it comes to helping the little ones. Let's see why this is.
- Related article: "The 6 stages of childhood (physical and mental development)"
Play during childhood: the engine of learning
A child is not the equivalent of an adult with lower reasoning ability and large gaps in knowledge about how the world works. The little ones are, of course, more ignorant than the older ones, but that does not mean that their mind is devoid of content. Unlike; precisely because in childhood we are constantly exposing ourselves to new situations that pose doubts and challenges to us. face, very often the psychological activity of the child is mobilizing consolidated knowledge in his memory previously.
It is about imperfect and provisional knowledge, full of half-truths or even beliefs totally wrong, but that serve as a reference to distinguish more and more between what is true and what is the false. In this sense, psychological activity in childhood is not very different from that of adults, taking into account that no one ever has a perfect and absolute knowledge of the truth. However, there are clear differences in other aspects, and the role of play in the psychological development of children is one of them.
And is that the game has several features that make it a very good vehicle for learning both ideas and the management of emotions. Let's see why this is.
1. There is no division between form and content in the learning material
During childhood, human beings have a lower capacity for abstract thinking, and therefore, any form of didactic experience must take into account that it is difficult for children to simply withdraw from the learning materials and focus their minds only on the new knowledge that they learn contribute. This explains, among other things, why they often need the support of illustrations even when they have already mastered the fundamentals of reading texts.
In the game, the playful activity itself is part of what is learned, and provides constant references about what are the elements from which to extract new information. Namely, there is no radical division between the material resources they use to learn, and the learning itself, and theory and practice go hand in hand.
2. The game generates narrative lines
The knowledge and skills that the little ones gain through play are not based on abstract concepts isolated from any type of experience that is familiar to them; Unlike, they are one more element in a story in which they are participating.
This makes this kind of learning very significant for them, and that by being able to place them in a structure narrative such as introduction, middle and end, have a clear notion of their progress, what it means to move forward, stagnate, etc.
What's more, when new insights are produced in the context of a story, they are much easier to memorize, and they are more memorable (they will automatically evoke them more easily).
3. Playing a context is created in which they are the protagonists
When playing, the little ones find themselves in a position where must constantly position themselves in the face of the challenges posed to them; It is very difficult for them to adopt a totally passive role, because the situation means that even the fact of crossing their arms can be interpreted in a narrative key.
4. Motivates to face new challenges
Last but not least is the fact that the game can be very motivating; if it is well planned, it may even be the little ones who ask to repeat one more time.
How is play used in child therapy?
In the same way that boys and girls have a natural predisposition to play spontaneously, child psychologists also use play-based therapeutic resources to harness the potential of these experiences. In other words, play contexts are proposed in order, through them, to favor the development and training of certain skills and abilities in the little ones.
This is a very good way not only to intervene in the psychological processes of children from situations that are understandable to them, but also, as we have seen, it encourages them to become one more agent of the educational process, being the first interested in progress. In addition, the game is a medium in which they can express their ideas and feelings spontaneously.
In this way, it is possible to work on approachable problems both from child therapy and from psychopedagogy, generating situations that will allow them train emotion recognition and management skills, social skills, fine motor skills, planning, strategy setting, etc. All this, without pressure and feeling an active part of their own progress.
Are you looking for professional support for your son or daughter?
If you are looking for child and adolescent psychotherapy, psychopedagogy or speech therapy services, get in touch with us. On Inpsiko Center For years we have been helping people of all ages both individually and offering support to families of children and adolescents. You can find us in Bilbao and Barakaldo.
- Ginsburg, K.R., et. to the. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119 (1): pp. 182 - 191.
- Howard C. (2008). Children at Play: An American History. New York: NYU Press.
- Nijhof, S.L. et. to the. (2018). Healthy play, better coping: The importance of play for the development of children in health and disease. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 95: pp. 421 - 429.
- Taylor, L.C.; Clayton, J.D., Rowley, S.J. (2004). Academic Socialization: Understanding Parental Influences on Children's School-Related Development in the Early Years. Review of General Psychology. 8 (3): pp. 163 - 178.
- West-Eberhard, M.J. (2003). Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press.