Play as a Tool for Learning in Childhood
Play is essential and universal; it happens in all cultures and all societies. It is an activity that occurs naturally at the beginning of life development.
It is an activity that is not exclusive to human beings, but that all mammals play. Mothers teach through play basic survival activities and behaviors such as hunting, interaction with the environment, skills, and techniques.
The game and play activity is a facilitator in the development of synaptic connections between neurons and the transmission of information.
Synapse formation, although it occurs throughout a person’s life, is especially crucial in the early stages of a child’s brain development, where thanks to neuronal plasticity, the effect on neuronal growth factors is more significant.
As it is a pleasant activity, contact with play objects is intentionally sought. It allows children to use different skills and abilities, which demand effort, concentration and favor the expression of feelings and the establishment of emotional links between the people involved in the game, as it has a high component of simulation, imitation, and an interactive format between children and their environment.
Play Development in the Child Stages
In the case of babies, play is interaction with adults. The baby responds to the games and playful stimuli that the adult presents and exposes him/her: looks, grimaces, smiles, objects, words, etc.
Babies need the adult as a mediator of the game. Play at this stage is about manipulating objects of a motor type. Its function is developing the senses, controlling coordination, discovering the physical qualities of objects, and discovering one’s possibilities.
Between the ages of 2 and 6, language is developed as a tool within the symbolic play. The games are mainly based on movement, and among their functions are the promotion of curiosity, the representation of the child’s reality: feelings, anguish, fears, desires. Reality as an essay.
Between the ages of 6 and 8, there is regulated play and socialization. At this stage, through play, children develop logical intelligence, reasoning, cooperation, fine motor skills, self-control, overcoming frustration, and self-esteem.
Because of the direct influence that play has on the brain and maturative development, it is an essential tool in interventions in neurodevelopmental disorders: attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, learning disorders, autism spectrum disorders, perceptual disorders, movement disorders, and kinesthetic disorders.
Playing intervenes in these cases on early cognitive difficulties, overall cognitive functioning, and risk factors for neurodevelopment.
Before the age of six, children make a game out of reality. Everything is played before this stage: teachers and professors, parents, doctors, siblings, family.
Through play, children understand and predict the behaviors and social and emotional nuances of others by observing the people around them.
By recreating through play the patterns of social functioning of the people around them, first through observation and then through imitation of their behaviors through play, children learn to recognize facial emotions, gestures, speech, manner of addressing, use of language appropriate to the context, use of body movements, hierarchical organization, characteristics of each role.
That is, they acquire and develop cognition, communication, and social interaction.
These frames of reference, when initiating a playful activity or game, especially if it is a social activity, favors the climate of leisure and also works for the learning of underlying internal strategies.
In the last decades, there has been a very significant change in the ways of playing. With the development of new technologies and the impulse of interactive games, consoles, video games, computers, mobile phones, 3D games, the games have adopted new forms and new scenarios.
Games have gone from being an action that takes place through a physical object to a virtual action where the recreation of reality is already presented. The child-adolescent only has to guide and direct the movements within that scenario.
Children no longer need to build their realities through imitation, recreation, or imagination, but instead, realities are already presented in different visual formats.
This not only affects the cognitive development of the child but also affects the formats of social interaction, the communication paths change and are reduced, highlighting individual play and self-competition.
The development of these new ways of playing, therefore, hinders the optimal development of social relations, the child’s relationship with the natural environment, the development of areas of language and communication, and the development of affective and cognitive domains. It enhances the risk of technological additions from children and even the development of visual processing pathways in detriment of auditory pathways.
The Problems With Virtual Gaming
Playing video games has become a popular activity for people of all ages. Many children and teenagers spend an enormous amount of time playing them.
Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry that generates more money than movies and DVDs. Video games have become very sophisticated and realistic games.
Some games are played on the Internet, allowing children and teens to play online with adults and unknown peers.
While some games have educational content, most of these popular games emphasize negative themes.
Some video games can promote learning, assist in problem-solving, and help develop motor skills and coordination. However, there is concern about the effect that violent video games have on young people who play them excessively.
Studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they may become immune or insensitive to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see and express more aggressive behavior due to greater exposure to violence.
Some children accept violence as a way of dealing with problems. Studies have shown that the more realistic and repeated exposure to violence, the more significant impact it has on children. Also, children with emotional, behavioral, and learning problems may be more affected by violent images.
Children and adolescents can become overly involved and even obsessed with video games.
Spending large amounts of time playing these games can create problems that lead to:
- developing poor social skills
- taking time away from family, school work and other hobbies
- to read less, exercise less and gain excess weight
- to develop aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
Tips for Parents
Parents can help their children enjoy these games and avoid problems:
- by selecting games that are appropriate in both content and developmental level
- playing video games with them to experience the content.
- establishing clear rules about the content of the games and the time you can spend playing them, whether indoors or outdoors
- clearly warning children about the danger potential of Internet contacts and relationships while playing online games
- talking to other parents about their family’s rules on video games
- remembering that you are the model for your child, including the video games you play as an adult.
If parents are concerned that their child is spending too much time playing video games or appears to be obsessed with aggressive or violent video games, they should first set certain limits.
For example, allow your child to play games for one hour after finishing schoolwork and encourage him/her to participate in activities that require social interaction.