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For children, play is naturally enjoyable. And since it is their active enagagement in things that interest them, play should be child-led, or, at least, child-inspired, for it to remain relevant and meaningful to them. Children at play are happily lost in themselves; they are in their own realm of wonder, exploration and adventure.

As early as infancy, children immerse themselves in play activities with the purpose of making sense of the world around them. Play gives children the opportunity to develop their creative faculties by learning and experiencing the artfulness of the world themselves, which is vital for their development. Although peek-a-boo games seem pointless to adults, tots are awed by the surprise that awaits them as they see the suddenly emerging faces of the people they love.

Stages of play

During toddlerhood, children experience a motor-growth spurt that equips them to solitarily fiddle with anything they can get their hands on – be it a construction toy or the box from it came from. Toddlers also love breaking into song, wiggling and jiggling to tunes, and imitating finger plays they are commonly exposed to.

Preschoolers begin extending their play to involve others, whether they bring others in at any stage of the game or they plan their game and its players way ahead. Their physical and motor skills allow them to widen they play arena, from dramatic play to table games to outdoor pursuits.

School-age children start appreciating organized play – such as innovated songs and rhymes, games with rules, relays and other physical activities, sports, and projects that they can accomplish over a certain time frame.

Play perks

Why the big fuss about playing, anyway? Surely a child can learn about creativity and art through some other less strenuous medium… right? Not exactly. For a child, play is not tedious. Play benefits him or her in ways that might be a tad difficult for adults to imagine.

- Play brings pure joy

A toddler who jumps into an empty box and runs around the house "driving a car" shows the sheer happiness that play brings. When children are asked what they did in school and they answer "play", it is a clear sign that these kids remember a feeling of genuine joy that is captured in this four-letter word.

- Play fosters socio-emotional learning

What does a 10-month old baby who shrieks at the sight of her stuffed toy have in common with a 10-year-old girl who plays basketball with her friends? They both deal with their confidence as they choose to embark on their play activities. At the same time, they are displaying their independence in the decisions that they make. These 2 children are also internalizing social rules in their respective play situations: the baby waits patiently for his or her stuffed toy to appear, while the school-age child has to contend with an impending loss in a ball game.

What play can do to foster creativity also includes physical and motor development, cognitive learning, language development, creativity and imaginative thinking and bonding opportunities. While some parents dismiss play as simply something that is useless and unnecessary, researches will tell us otherwise. Play is a vital part in a child's development. So, while he or she is interested in play, let him or her spread his wings and make up his own world.

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