How playing helps baby's brain develop and mature in ways that's useful later

  • Family
  • Thursday, 09 Nov 2023

A child's body and brain is designed to be playful, and a new book illustrates that parents can facilitate the learning process by supporting playtime as early as possible. — dpa

WHEN babies play, it not only keeps them amused and occupied, it helps their brains develop and mature in ways that are vital for later life.

The reasons why are set out in a new book called The Brain That Loves To Play, in which Middlesex University’s Jacqueline Harding argues against any play-learning dichotomy.

“It seems that the young child’s body and brain are literally designed to be playful, and this is crucial for its development,” Harding says, adding that play should not be seen solely as recreation.

She warned against anything that limits toddlers’ ability to enjoy themselves, saying, “children are naturally wired to play and any sustained deviation from this masterful design comes at a price.”

Rather, when at play, the child’s brain “starts to ‘jump’ and light up with joy as connections between neurons make impressive progress.”

“Does this experience count as learning? Absolutely yes,” Harding says. She adds that the Covid-19 lockdowns mean there needs to be greater emphasis on play, for those youngsters who have lived through “such unprecedented times.”

Doctors and health officials have also been promoting play as central to a child’s physical and intellectual growth.

“During play, children will learn to move, balance and lift things,” according to Ireland’s Health Service Executive, which said play also “helps children develop their memory, thinking and reasoning skills.”

“Evidence suggests that play can help boost brain function, increase fitness, improve coordination, and teach cooperation,” according to Stephen Suomi of the National Institutes of Health in the US. – dpa

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