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The value of playing today

1 de June, 2024

On Children’s Day, we recognize not only the uniqueness of each child, but also the importance of providing them with an environment that is conducive to their integral development. In this digital age, where screens are a strong attraction from an early age, it is essential to reaffirm the value of play as an essential activity for the healthy growth of children.

Play is a child’s main occupation and a vital tool for their neurodevelopment. It is through play that children experience a series of sensorimotor experiences, relating to the world around them. Play is a primary form of communication, expression, socialization and learning. Scientific studies have shown that active, free and creative play involves the entire brain and stimulates the development of neural connections essential for motor, social, emotional, behavioral and even cognitive development. Although technological toys offer unique educational opportunities, they do not have a motor component, so many of the neural connections are not integrated. It is essential to use them in moderation, ensuring that they complement, and do not replace, traditional play. Clinical research indicates that excessive screen time has been associated with sleep, attention and emotional regulation problems in children.

Playing is an essential resource for all children, and even offers numerous intervention possibilities for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Games and toys are used in this context as a material support and a privileged path of stimulation, where play has an objective outlined by the technician and strengthens the neurocortical connections that are critical for development.

Here are some suggestions and their benefits:

  • Sensorimotor activities: Jumping, running, climbing, pulling, pushing, carrying and exploring different sensations help children to process and integrate sensory information, such as tactile, visual, auditory, proprioceptive and vestibular, effectively. This results in more adequate emotional regulation, the development of motor skills, concentration, participation and social interaction, self-confidence, autonomy and learning.
  • Symbolic play: By participating in symbolic play, children explore different social roles, express emotions, practice communication skills and learn to resolve conflicts imaginatively.
  • Construction games and toys: Promote creativity, spatial reasoning, problem-solving and collaboration. They also help to strengthen concentration, patience and persistence.
  • Music and language: Music stimulates auditory and cognitive development, motor skills and emotional expression. Exposing children to word games and story exploration promotes the development of receptive and expressive language.
  • Outdoor activities: Nature is a privileged place that offers a balanced multisensory experience and endless possibilities for exploration and play. It is the ideal space to inspire creativity and imagination, but also for children to challenge themselves, test the limits of their own bodies and become more confident and better at solving problems. Playing on the beach, climbing trees, gardening, observing animals, cooking with elements of nature are just a few examples.

Diana Barroso, Occupational Therapist

Ricardina Correia, Psychologist

CNS – Neurological Campus