Why is play important in pediatric therapy?

Many parents are tempted to make their young children take the time to learn as much as possible, rather than spending several hours a week playing. However, this is a serious mistake: the game is not just about “wasting time”, but in childhood it is the experience that young people use to learn naturally and spontaneously. And this also applies to knowledge that goes beyond academia: managing emotions, socializing, adopting values, etc.

For that, play is a valuable tool used by both child psychologists and educational psychologists when it comes to helping the little ones. Let’s see what this is for.

    Playing in childhood: the engine of learning

    A child is not the equivalent of an adult with less reasoning skills and large gaps in knowledge on how the world works. The little ones are, of course, more ignorant than the older ones, but that doesn’t mean their minds are devoid of content. On the contrary; precisely because in childhood we are constantly exposed to new situations which pose doubts and challenges to be faced, very often the psychological activity of the child mobilizes knowledge consolidated in his memory before.

    They are imperfect and provisional knowledge, full of half-truths or even totally erroneous beliefs, but which serve as a reference to distinguish more and more truth from lies. In this sense, the psychological activity of childhood does not differ much from that of an adult, since no one manages to have a perfect and absolute knowledge of the truth. However, there are distinct differences in other aspects, and the role of play in children’s psychological development is one of them.

    And this is it the game has several features that make it a very good vehicle to learn both ideas and the management of emotions. Let’s see what this is for.

    1. No division is made between form and content in the learning material.

    During childhood, human beings have an inferior capacity for abstract thinking, and therefore any form of teaching experience should be borne in mind that children have difficulty in summing up simply from the material of learning and focus their minds only on the new knowledge that this brings them. . This explains, among other things, why they often need the support of illustrations even though they have already succeeded in mastering the basics of reading texts.

    In play, the play activity itself is part of what is learned and provides constant references on what are the elements from which to extract new information. In other words, that is to say 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 children acquire through play are not based on abstract concepts isolated from any type of experience with which they are familiar; on the contrary, they are one more element in a story in which they participate.

    This makes this type of learning very meaningful to them, and being able to place them in a narrative structure like intro, knot and culmination, they have a clear idea of ​​their progress, what it means to move on, stagnate, etc. .

    Outraged, when new knowledge arises in the context of a story, it is much easier to memorize it, And they are more memorable (they will evoke them more easily automatically).

    3. Playing creates a context in which they are the protagonists

    While playing, the cubs are seen in a position in which they must constantly position themselves in the face of the challenges they face; it is very difficult for them to play a totally passive role, because the situation means that even the folded arms can be interpreted in a narrative way.

    4. It motivates you to take on new challenges.

    Last but not least is the fact that the game can become very motivating; if it is well placed, it may even be the little ones who ask to repeat it once more.

    How is play used in pediatric therapy?

    Just as boys and girls have a natural predisposition to play spontaneously, Child psychologists are also using play-based therapy resources to harness the potential of these experiences.. That is to say that play contexts are proposed to, through them, promote the development and learning of certain skills and abilities in children.

    It is a very good way not only to intervene in the psychological processes of the children starting from understandable situations for them, but also, as we have seen, to encourage them to become one more agent of the educational process, being the first interested in progress. In addition, play is a medium in which they can spontaneously express their ideas and feelings.

    In this way, it is possible to work on affordable problems arising from both childhood therapy and educational psychology, generating situations that will allow them to form skills of recognition and management of emotions, social skills, fine motor skills, planning, strategizing, 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 psychotherapy, educational psychotherapy or speech therapy services for children and adolescents, contact us. Fr Inpsiko Center we have spent years helping people of all ages both individually and supporting families of children and adolescents. You can find us in Bilbao and Barakaldo.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Ginsburg, KR, et. at. (2007). The importance of play to promote healthy child development and maintain a strong bond between parents and children. Pediatrics, 119 (1): pages 182-191.
    • Howard C. (2008). Children at Play: An American History. New York: NYU Press.
    • Nijhof, SL and. at. (2018). Healthy play, better adaptation: the importance of play for children’s health and disease development. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 95: pages 421 to 429.
    • Taylor, LC; Clayton, JD, Rowley, SJ (2004). Academic socialization: understanding the influences of parents on children’s academic development during the early years. General review of psychology. 8 (3): pages 163 to 178.
    • West-Eberhard, MJ (2003). Plasticity and evolution of development. Oxford University Press.

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