Recent UK research ‘Ribena Plus Play Report’ reiterates what Early Childhood Ireland members already know; that play which is child-led, is most beneficial for the emotional, physical and social development of the child.
These benefits are more common in forms of play that might be described as ‘traditional’, such as playing with building blocks or with open-ended basic materials. The benefits that come from children simply being given the time and space to play and access to resources such as sand, water, recycled items and natural materials are numerous and far outweigh the benefits of playing with prescriptive and high tech toys.
Children are born with an innate drive to learn – they are competent, capable and powerful learners, who learn best with and through others.Where play is sociable, ‘it ensures children learn how to collaborate and co-operate with others and use a range of language skills’; when it is active, it has benefits for children’s physical health; when play is creative or imaginative, as it is in drawing , making things or dressing-up, it ‘encourages creativity and innovative thinking’, whilst play which involves risks is important since ‘it is only through taking risks that children learn how to stay safe’.1
It is more traditional forms of play, such as using building blocks, making dens, dressing-up and active group games (for example tag), which most commonly contain these aspects and therefore provide children with the most benefits.
The science gallery of Trinity College has recently opened a Dublin workshop where adults and children with curious minds are letting their imaginations run riot with a variety of workshops and activities on offer. This is MakeShop – where people come to make “stuff” from creating robots from markers and paper cups, or a bird house from Gay Mitchell’s face. Irene Gunning, Early Childhood Ireland CEO, and RTE news visited MakeShop in the video below to see the workshop in action.
The MakeShop creative activities are proving very popular, with many children and adults popping in and getting involved, and it is plain to see the enjoyment from the children who are creating their own toys. Children’s natural curiosity and interest in experimentation and engineering is being facilitated and no doubt inspiring them in their future lives. Using recycled materials to create new toys is not only environmentally friendly, which in itself is a valuable talking point, but also far more fun, handson, and rewarding than being handed a high tech toy, the novelty of which fades very fast.
You are what you play – When children play and engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) areas it supports their creative and critical thinking as well as encouraging persistence and problem solving. STEM learning must start in the earliest years at the time that children’s interests, desires, and abilities are shaped, and an experienced childcare and education practitioner will help build on and extend these interests. We have also included some fun scientific play ideas on our Early Childhood Ireland website for both parents and practitioners.
So let’s take some inspiration from the research and scientific activities above, and help inspire children with all the fun good old fashioned play has to offer!