The power of play: why is it necessary for children?

Recently, an article in the popular magazine “Very Interesting” spoke about the secret of toys and underlined the importance of play in the process of maturation of the individual.

This week, from the Mensalus Institute of Psychological and Psychiatric Care, we spoke about the importance of play in child development and adult well-being.

Why is it important for children to play?

How powerful is the game?

Leisure activities strengthen two areas of the gray mass (matter that is part of the central nervous system): the cerebellum, which coordinates movement, and the frontal lobe, associated with decision-making and impulse control. The toy plays a key role in these maturation processes because it contributes to the learning of the cause and effect relationship (“if I push the truck, it moves”) and to the calculation of probabilities by trial and error. “If I want the truck to go to the table, I have to push harder”).

The power of the game is untold. To play is to learn by stimulating the imagination, by discovering through interaction and, above all, by having fun. For this reason, play is a key element for the healthy growth of the individual and the development of his intelligence.

Children change the way they play over the years …

Of course. If we look at them, we can see some very interesting elements that differentiate one stage from another. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) gave a detailed description of the main types of games that appear throughout childhood. This teacher observed that from 0 to 2 years the functional game or exercise predominates, from 2 to 6 years the symbolic game is made explicit and, from 6 to 12 years, the set of rules does.

In addition, Piaget realized how, alongside these types of games, the so-called construction game appears, a type of game that evolves from the hands of all the others (depending on the stage in which the boy is).

What characterizes exercise games?

The exercise games of the first years of life consist of repeating an action over and over again for the sake of obtaining an immediate result. These actions can be performed both with objects (biting, sucking, throwing, shaking) and without them (dragging, swinging, crawling). At this stage, the child develops coordination of movements and movements, static and dynamic balance, as well as an understanding of the world around him, among other things.

The toy industry offers a multitude of options that frame the implementation of the skills described. As in the other stages, the toys function as “useful materials” for the psycho-sensorimotor development of the little one.

What toys promote the development of children from 2 to 6 years old?

In this second stage, where symbolic play predominates (that which consists in simulating situations, objects and characters), the toys which encourage the child’s imagination and motivate him to create are interesting. This is why it is often better to build a scene rather than do it right from the start.

Symbolic play facilitates understanding of the environment, puts into practice knowledge about established roles in adult life and promotes language development among other things. In short, in this type of game, children reproduce knowledge of the reality that surrounds them. The more varied the reality they know, the richer the arguments they use (families, doctors, teachers, dancers, shops, etc.). In fact, the selection and development of the plot / theme of the game shows that the child increasingly understands vital aspects.

And what characterizes the rule set (ages 6 to 12)?

Rules are elements of socialization that teach children to win and lose, to respect turns and rules, to consider the actions and opinions of other peers, etc. Rules are fundamental for learning different types of knowledge and encourage the development of language, memory, reasoning and attention.

To better illustrate the learning of the rules, Piaget took the ball game as an example: if you give balls to 2-year-old children, the activity they perform is of an individual type: they suck them, they throw, grow, etc.

If the deliveries to children between 2 and 5 years old, even if they are given the rule of the game, they do it individually (play in parallel), that is, they do not try to compete, to win , exchange points of view, etc. Finally, if you share them with 6-7 year olds and teach them what the game is like, they understand the rules as mandatory items and perform the activity according to the rules.

Supporting children in this direction is a fundamental task for their maturation.


For many parents, playing is a distraction, but in reality it is a more engaging task. Play contributes, as we have seen, to the integral growth of the child, and participating in it makes us a key part of this maturation process.

Our in-game character nourishes all the abilities mentioned. For example, in the case of symbolic play, it offers a source of information with which the child will have to fight and interact (vocabulary, gestures, procedures, ideas about society, etc.). In the case of the rule set, there are limits that will later allow skills to be developed that can be transferred to other life scenarios (eg: waiting).

We all need to play

Do seniors also need to play?

According to psychiatrist Adam Blatner, the urge to play in humans is lifelong. Blatner points out that the basis of human life is the relationship between four skills: loving, working, playing, and thinking. More precisely, this psychiatrist values ​​recreational activity as a compensating element for the emotional tension generated by other activities.

The truth is, not all actions can become games. In fact, we would open up an interesting debate if we thought about what would happen if that were the case.

However. We can naturally integrate the leisure activity into our daily life in order to counter the tension / fatigue generated by the obligation, thus offering a place for the creative capacity. Therefore, introduce the game as a complementary element (whether in sport, in a team dynamic, in the practice of a hobby, etc.) regardless of the existence of a moment of play With kids, it’s an emotionally smart choice.

Are adults allowed to play?

Often not. Therein lies the problem. The theme of permissiveness and beliefs related to “duty” gives way to spontaneity, liberation of thought and joy. Therefore, today we do not want to dismiss this article without sending a final message: gambling is part of our way of exploring and understanding the world …

Playing is not just a children’s affair.

  • You might be interested in: “9 Games and Strategies to Exercise the Mind”

Leave a Comment