Cognitive development refers to the process by which children learn to think, understand, and remember. It includes skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and language development.
Play is an integral part of childhood, and it is also essential for cognitive development. When children play, they explore the world around them, learning new ideas and developing their thinking skills.
As children interact with their surroundings, they learn new concepts and skills that improve their cognitive ability to understand, evaluate, and comprehend real-life situations.
Types of Play
There are many different types of play, each with its own benefits for a child’s cognitive development. According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, play is essential for a child’s cognitive faculties. Different types of play, such as functional, constructive, symbolic, and games with rules, can significantly develop a child’s brain.
Some of the most common types of play and their benefits include:
Constructive play – includes the use of LEGO and blocks. The three-dimensional objects enable young and fertile minds to plan ahead and make the necessary alterations so the pieces fit together as intended. It helps learn about new objects like squares, circles, and stars. LEGO is a wonderful way to enhance children’s spatial awareness and mathematical skills early on. It impacts the preoperational and concrete operational stages of cognitive development.
Solitary play – or independent play, is the stage in which a child starts to explore alone. It includes sorting and stacking nesting bowls that help children get organised. Likewise, board games within the indoor play areas for kids are an interesting way to develop and improve critical thinking skills among children. Games such as Chess, Checkers, Go, Risk, and Othello help develop children’s critical thinking and strategic decision-making skills. Playing these can make children think carefully about their moves to outsmart their opponent and win the game. These games with rules help develop the concrete operational and formal operational stages.
Pretend play – includes the use of theatre and role play to develop imaginations and creativity. Activities such as drawing, painting, collage, sculpturing, music and theatre provide children with the opportunity to improve their creativity and imagination. Although many parents do not prefer music, music also helps children develop their memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Likewise, drama and theatre improve language and speaking skills while building self-confidence, self-control and emotional awareness.
Physical play – such as running jumping, and sports like football and baseball help develop their gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and coordination. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which provides the brain with more oxygen and nutrients while aiding the growth of new brain cells and the formation of new neural connections.
Social play – includes playing with other children. It is key to developing communication and language skills for children. The Mindnasium Summer Camp and STEM programs provide enrichment classes for kids that enhance cognitive development through coding, robotics, and engineering projects. STEM projects impact the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, and temporal lobe, responsible for interpreting visual information from the eyes, memory, body awareness, movement planning, sensory processing, mathematical processing, and information retention for long and short periods.
Cognitive development is essential for success in school and life. Play is a powerful tool that can help children to develop their cognitive skills. Parents and caregivers can encourage cognitive development through play by providing various play materials, letting children lead play, playing with their children, and creating a safe and supportive environment for play.