Play's Crucial Role in Child Development

“Play is integral to being able to build resilience.”

I find it interesting that so many preschool programs say they are play based, and yet children as young as 4 years old are taught to write their name, and, in some cases, given worksheets as homework. Why on earth is this a good idea?  We used to teach writing in first grade, not even kindergarten. Learning these skills at a younger age gets in the way of developing creativity and critical thinking skills that will serve our children well as they get older.

It is more important to teach children how to think, than it is to teach them how to respond.

In his book Building Resilience in Children and Teens, Kenneth Ginsburg discusses the importance of play as an important part of developing resilience. “Play is exactly about learning to control your environment, to figure things out,” he says. He discusses what he calls the "7 Cs: The Essential Building Blocks of Resilience."

  • Competence: When we notice what young people are doing right and give them opportunities to develop important skills, they feel competent. We undermine competence when we don't allow young people to recover themselves after a fall.    
  • Confidence: Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges.     
  • Connection: Connections with other people, schools, and communities offer young people the security that allows them to stand on their own and develop creative solutions.    
  • Character: Young people need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.    
  • Contribution: Young people who contribute to the well-being of others will receive gratitude rather than condemnation. They will learn that contributing feels good and may therefore more easily turn to others, and do so without shame.   
  • Coping: Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to dangerous quick fixes when stressed.
  • Control: Young people who understand privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.

→ Read more about the 7 C's here.

→ Read a great article on the importance of play in children's ability to build resilience and creativity.

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Moira Sullivan

Moira uses a holistic approach that promotes healthy development in the child while honoring and supporting their relationship with their family and the community. A graduate of San Jose State University, she has advanced training in sensory integration, visual perception and visual-motor integration, DIR Floortime, oral motor rehabilitation, strength and endurance training, and myofascial release.