Preschool-age children spend most of their time playing games. Sometimes, grown-ups think that children spend waste their time playing, because a game may be considered an idle pastime and horseplay. In fact, playing games is a leading activity for preschoolers. This means that playing is the activity crucial for the development of children of this age.
The developmental impact of playing on the child is impossible without the participation of an adult. The younger a kid is, the more often and deeply his/her parents should get into the process of game. When a baby is old enough to play, his/her mom and dad are his favorite game partners. Parents can initiate playing games themselves or support their kids’ initiative. At an older age, parents can act as external observers, assistants, and consultants. In any case, an adult acts as an introducer opening the game world for a kid.
Being engaged in playing, a child develops physically, mentally and personally. Let us consider in more detail how games affect the development of a child.
Development of the cognitive sphere. When playing, a child actively learns the world around him, gets acquainted with the properties of objects, their purpose. This aspect of the impact of playing on a child’s development manifests itself at a very early age, when the child is not able to play yet, and he or she only manipulates objects: puts toy blocks one on top of the other, puts balls into a basket, and pops toys into his/her mouth. Together with the assimilation of new knowledge about the world around us, playing develops cognitive processes: attention, memory, and thinking. Being formed at an early age, attention concentrating, analyzing, information memorizing skills will be very useful for the child for when he/she starts school;
Physical growth and development. When playing, a child learns different movements, improves his/her motor skills. Active games are loved by all children: they enjoy running, jumping, hopping, turning somersaults, kicking a ball. Playing such games, a child learns to have a masterful command of movements of his/her body, acquires dexterity and good muscle tone, which is very important for a growing organism;
Development of imaginative thinking and imagination. Being engaged in playing, a child attributes new properties to the object, models his/her own imaginary world. At this moment, the child himself/herself understands that everything is happening for fun, while playing, he/she really thinks leaves to be money, stones and pebbles to be potatoes for cooking soup, and raw sand to be dough for pastries with appetizing savour. The development of imagination and imaginative thinking is the most important aspect of effect of playing, because the child has to make nonroutine decisions in order to realize the plot of his/her game. However, in these latter days, this property of the game is being exterminated by children’s toys manufacturers, who develop and create a wide variety of play sets for all occasions. Children’s kitchens, laundries, sets to play store that are hardly distinguishable from real ones deprive games children play of the element of fantasy and imagination;
Development of speech and communication skills. When playing an action or role-playing game, a child constantly has to walk through his/her part, act out dialogues between the characters of the game. Playing games together with other kids contributes not only to the development of speech, but also to the development of communication skills: children need to outline roles, agree on the rules of the game, and keep in touch directly during the game. The child learns not only to reach an agreement, but also to observe the rules established;
Development of the motivational sphere. Action and role-playing games are based on the fact that a child imitates an adult person. When playing, the child behaves as if he or she tried being an adult, at the level of the game, tries to perform his/her functions. Such behaving during the game shapes the child’s motivation to become a real adult, that is, to get a profession, earn money, start a family of his/her own. Of course, to have the ‘correct’ motivation formed during the game, the child should have a positive example of adults’ behaving around him/her;
Development of moral qualities. Although the plots of children’s games are fictitious, the conclusions that a child may make from game situations are the real ones. The game is a kind of polygon in which the child learns to be honest, bold, determined, friendly, and well-intentioned. Of course, forming moral qualities involves not only children’s playing, but also the presence of an adult who will help to see the game situation more deeply and make right conclusions;
Development and correction of the emotional sphere. When playing, a child learns to sympathize, support, be pitiful, and express sympathy. Sometimes, it happens that the emotional problems of a child: fear, anxiety, aggression – ‘break through’ the games. While playing, a child may give vent to the emotions, and it is possible live go through the difficult situations with the child.
Unfortunately, in these days areal spontaneous children’s game is being replaced by training in game form or playing computer games.
We must understand, but neither of these activities is, as a matter of fact, the game that gives so much to the development of a child. Of course, real and ‘quality’ children’s games are not always comfortable for adults, because they are tents made from pillows and blankets, construction set towns all over the house and a mess. However, we should not limit the child in his/her imagination and playing, because they are right when they say that everything is good in its season, and childhood is the right time to play games. The child, who has been allowed to play as much as he/she wanted, will be better prepared for the transition to a new step in his/her development.