PaNDA for Kids - Physiotherapy and Neuro Developmental Assessments

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The importance of play

Play is a fundamental aspect of a child’s development. So what does play mean for children and why is it so important?

Play is when a child engages in an activity that is enjoyable. It is an exploration of their environment which can involve sensory, communication, cognition/thinking skills, social & emotional and motor skills such their use their hands and movement.  Play activities that are engaging for the child, create a learning space where they are motivated which brings about learning. Therefore, play is an important facilitator in a child’s development.

Different kinds of play require different levels of thinking skills or cognition and is related to different stages of a child’s age. Children who have a motor impairment or developmental delay can have difficulties in engaging in play activities, which in turn further impacts om their development.

As physiotherapists, play is an intrinsic part of how we provide therapy to children and more importantly how we use our knowledge to educate families. We use targeted activities and toys to engage the child’s interest and participation in goal directed movement and positions. We understand what level of play to target the child depending on their level of cognitive and  motor development.

An important aspect of  childhood development is parent/carer – child interaction. Play offers an ideal opportunity for parents to relate to their child, engage in therapy and helping them to develop their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being. Physiotherapists working with children understand the importance of teaching families how to use play in therapy which is not only fun but is a way of normalising early intervention and integrating it into daily family life.

Play should be enjoyable and fun. If an activity is fun the child will be engaged and actively participating. This is where the magic happens as there will be practice through repetition, which in turn leads to learning.  This has a positive impact by maximizing the child’s development in the way they think, communicate and move; ultimately skills for a child’s participation in life.

Dr Lucy E Lorefice, B.App.Sci (physio), PhD
Paediatric Physiotherapist
PaNDA for kids

Ginsburg, K.R. (2007) The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. Pediatrics, 119, 181-192, doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2697
Tsao L. How much do we know about the importance of play in child development? Child Educ.2002;78 :230– 233

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