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Play and leisure is a key part of a child’s development. They learn through play and leisure; it helps their imagination grow and their social, emotional, intellectual and communication development will blossom. They will learn what works and what doesn’t in certain activities by simply doing it themselves. Role play helps to build on their imagination and social skills whereas they will play together and make friends, all of this will increase their self-esteem also.
Play and leisure activities contribute to children and young people’s development by increasing their independence and self-esteem. They will find it easier to make friends while joining in with group activities which will help their social development and in turn helps their communication development.
As a mother of twins, I keep them busy at home by setting up activities they will enjoy but are also educational for them, or we go out exploring the world (or park or beach) around us.
Here I have given you 3 examples of activities and identified how they promote children’s development.
Paper cutting with scissors not only develops fine motor skills and coordination, but it can also develop a child’s intellectual skills as they are taught to assess and manage their own risk. They will know the dangers of not using scissors correctly and it will deter them from being careless while using scissors.
A money shop game on the mathematics table in class teaches the children how to count out what they need in coins from the coin tray to buy the toy they would like to look at. They are encouraged to count in order and aloud to show us that they can do it. This can be independent or adult led to be used for the child’s observations. It enhances their intellectual development by learning to count and increases self-esteem and confidence by knowing they can count and feel comfortable enough to do it in front of the other children, teacher and teaching assistants present in the class.
Making classroom displays on the art table for each topic of the week can inspire children to get creative. For example, in the class I work in, we have an area in the class that is made to look like a house which includes a kitchen area each week we make decorations for a particular topic the children are learning. We have done firework displays, Diwali displays, the Stick Man, and the Post Office. This helps their social, emotional, and communication development as they are encouraged to make the displays in groups and independently and they are encouraged to role play in the home corner. It will also help their intellectual development as they actively learn each topic.
The law relating to this is below:
The United Nation Convention on the Rights of a Child states that someone under 18 years of age is defined as a child. It recognizes the primary role of parents and the family in the care and protection of children, as well as the obligation of the State to help them carry out these duties. Below are some categories of the rights of children and what they consist of. (Reference courtesy here with a further section referenced directly listed on the UNCRC list of rights which consists of 41 articles. Below is Article 31 – Leisure, recreation and cultural activities-
- Article 31 states parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
- It also states parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
- Survival rights: Include the child’s right to life and the needs that are most basic to existence, such as nutrition, shelter, an adequate living standard, and access to medical services.
- Development rights: Include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- Protection rights: Ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system; protection for children in employment; protection and rehabilitation for children who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.
- Participation rights: Encompass children's freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully. As their capacities develop, children should have increasing opportunity to participate in the activities of society, in preparation for adulthood.
To promote this, we should adapt the learning areas to facilitate independent learning, create activities to teach children about various cultures. It’s also a topic in the EYFS curriculum called Understanding the World.
Children are free to choose what they want to learn about each topic and how they wish to learn it with some adult led guidance and input to show them the topics and how to use the activities created for them. They also have a rest area which is made comfortable with cushions and soft toys if they wish to take a break in the class room. There is an outside classroom where they are also free to choose which activity.
The characteristics of freely chosen, self-directed play and leisure are to allow a child to learn independently. For example a nursery opens at 10 am the outside learning area which is sectioned into different learning areas with building blocks, writing areas, a climbing frame, a sand pit, play houses, a music area with a stage and instruments, an outside reading area with phonics activities, a fully equipped art area and a lot more. They are free to play and learn whatever they wish until they return to class to under take more structured activities and lessons.
It builds independence, confidence, social skills, and communication skills as well as their intellectual skills as they learn how to play and learn in each area either independently with the other children.
Take this on board with children of your own or if you work at a setting children attend it goes without saying in any case.