Researchers have shown that when it comes to early development of child’s brain, the time spent playing is just as important as the time spent in the classroom.
Play has a vital role also in the emotional, social, physical and cognitive development of children, as it helps them learn to cooperate and negotiate with others, enables them to be creative and to overcome challenges.
Here are some interesting facts that will convince you, if necessary, that your child is absolutely right when he or she asks to be left to play for a little longer
Play and children brain development
"The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain," says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the “University of Lethbridge” in Alberta, Canada. "And without play experience, those neurons aren't changed".
According to the same researcher, the changes that take place during childhood in the prefrontal cortex are responsible for mapping the executive control center of the brain. And this control center designs the ability to solve problems, to make plans and to regulate emotions.
An interesting element is that brain’s development has been linked to play also in animal species that engage in this type of social interaction: dogs, cats and even birds. Moreover, some researchers have conducted studies on animals that have led to the conclusion that play seems to trigger enduring changes in areas of the brain in charge with thinking and processing social interactions.
As Jaak Panksepp from “Washington State University” says, "we found that play activates the whole neocortex”. "And we found that of the 1,200 genes that we measured, about one-third of them were significantly changed simply by having a half-hour of play", he adds.
The brain in early childhood
A baby’s brain starts to develop in the womb, from embryonic tissue called the ectoderm. The early stages of brain development are dictated by genetic instruction.
An amazing fact is that when is born, a baby has around 100 billion of neurons, which is more than he will ever use as an adult. Based on the type and quality of interactions a baby will have – with his or her parents, based on social experiences and physical environment, the synapses in the baby’s brain will shape the connections which are used more often.
Several studies have proven that when provided with an enhanced quality social and physical environment during early childhood, babies can improve learning skills and memory, develop courage for exploration and diminish their fearful responses to novelty.
The exposure to such “healthy” environment can also decrease the impact of genetic risk factors.
The child's brain development in the first two years
For many people, the brain development means only the increase of brain’s size. While this increase takes place in the first two years of life, the most important development in a child’s brain is the one that happens in its functionality.
During infancy, the brain has an incredible capacity to change and adapt, which is called neuroplasticity. This is how a baby’s brain learns new methods to function, as neuroplasticity enables the brain to become better and better in performing simple tasks.
Two of brain’s areas that improve their function during first two years of life are the motor cortex and the sensory cortex.
The motor cortex allows babies to control the movement of their little bodies, while the sensory cortex is helping the baby decode the world through the input of senses.
The two areas of the brain work together as a team and that is the reason why they are positioned so close to each other inside the brain.
The result of their joint effort is reflected in the huge progress a baby is making, as she or he grows: holding their head on their own, grabbing and holding objects, sitting, clapping, recognizing and responding when they are called by their name, standing, walking and speaking are just few examples of the ground-breaking victories that an infant achieves.
The benefits of children’s play on brain’s development
Over the years, several studies have analyzed and concluded over the benefits of children’s play on brain’s development.
The “Webster’s Desk Dictionary of English Language” indicates more than thirty meanings of “play”.
A frequent definition used among childhood experts is “an activity done for its own sake, characterized by means rather than ends (the process is more important than any endpoint or goal).
Play helps people adjust easier to social requirements, is associated with development of language skills, improves the ability to solve divergent problems and is linked to self-control (emotions and impulses) and the ability to reason counterfactually.
Moreover, several studies have shown the attention to academics of school kids is enhanced after they are being granted a recess - an unstructured break in which the children are free to play without direction from adults (Pellegrini and Holmes, 2006). This conclusion has been reinforced by the link between the results of Chinese and Japanese students (among the top performers in the world) and the short breaks granted for play every 50 minutes.
As for language skills, psychologist Edward Fisher found that “sociodramatic play"— what happens when kids pretend together—“results in improved performances in both cognitive-linguistic and social affective domains."
Language skills are improved also by playing with bullding blocks, as indicated by a study sponsored by “Mega Bloks”, which revealed that kids with ages between 1.5 and 2.5 years presented in a six-months period improved language skills after playing with 80 plastic blocks, including cars and people.
While each child is unique and a set of cold, inflexible conclusions cannot be applied to all kids, what researchers and scientists agree upon is that free play must be an important part of a child’s daily schedule, in order to ensure the best possible brain development a parent can offer to his or her child.
As children are curious and in a continuous learning process, their cognitive development (which is the ability to reason, to process information, to express emotions and to remember), can be boosted with the help of toys. Toys enable kids to build knowledge, to integrate the old with the new and to develop understanding. From puzzles to plush singing toys, you have a wide range of toys to choose from.
And we know there is nothing a baby loves more than a smooth and soft plush toy that can become his best friend from when he is only a few months only. When this plush friend comes with additional features (or “super-powers”, as you can present them when playing with your baby:), you have the guarantee of some quality time spent by and with your child.
So, if you have an infant or a toddler at home, she or he will be delighted by “Peek-A-Boo The Elephant toy”. This is an adorable singing animated plush, suitable from age 0+, which is provided with 2 play modes.
The child can press the left foot to play and interactive game of peek-a-boo and the right one to hear the song “Do your ears hang low” played by a cute child’s voice. This switch between left and right will teach your baby the relationship between cause and effect while she or he plays with the elephant which is available in gray, pink and a mix of these two colors.
The song may soon become one of your baby’s favorites, helping him or her become fond of music and, who knows, even discover the vocal talent from within:)
Plus, the ears of the elephant move and flap during the song, which will teach your child to follow movements and to correlate them with the singing.
“Peek-A-Boo The Elephant” has features that will delight you as well: a washable surface for an easy cleaning and top of tops - a 60% off! With such a discount, who could ask for more? :)