The improvement of cognitive qualities through play

Play helps children develop cognitive skills through a wide range of activities. These include memory, problem-solving, motor skills, executive function and more.

There is strong evidence that play promotes brain growth. This is especially true for certain thinking skills that are essential for cognitive depth.

Creativity and Imagination

Creative play is a fun way for kids to develop important cognitive qualities like imagination and creativity. It allows them to explore new ideas, try out new things and make up their own stories.

Imaginative play is also great for problem-solving skills. It can help children come up with their own ideas and solutions to problems, and they’ll often have to test their ideas out and see if they work.

Pretend play is a common type of imaginative play, where children pretend to be someone else. This can be a parent or another person they know, a character from a book or even something they have invented themselves.

Motor Skills

The improvement of cognitive qualities through play is a key factor in the development of children's intellectual intelligence. It involves trial and error activities that require the ability to learn from experience, making a decision and then carrying out that decision in a way that results in the desired outcome.

Fine motor skills involve the careful control of small muscles in the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes and lips as well as the coordination of those muscles with the eyes. These abilities are essential for handwriting, typing and drawing as well as the use of tools and instruments like pens, pencils and scissors.

Gross motor skills develop in babies as they grow and move their bodies. They involve the development of muscles that enable them to hold up their heads, sit and crawl, eventually walking, running, jumping and skipping.

To encourage the development of gross motor skills, Michigan State University Extension suggests a variety of outdoor and indoor activities. They include wheelbarrow walks, hopping, playing tag and catching balls.

Executive Function Skills

Executive function skills are the self-regulating abilities that help people manage their time and resources, stay organized, meet deadlines, and complete tasks successfully. These skills are critical to success in school, work, and in life in general.

Play is an important way for children to develop executive functions through their imagination, problem-solving, and planning skills. It is also an effective way for them to develop their working memory, inhibition, and shifting abilities through make-believe games.

Many of these activities can be easily implemented in a child’s home and classroom environments. The PRoPELS framework provides a number of activities that promote engagement and positive growth in the development of executive functioning skills for children 6 months through adolescence.

Executive function skills are not automatically developed as a person matures, and they are often delayed or impaired in children who have challenging relationships with adults or in traumatic environments that are associated with toxic stress. For these reasons, children who are struggling with the development of these skills should seek professional help immediately.

Social and Emotional Development

Play is a key tool in the development of social and emotional skills. It helps kids negotiate group dynamics, collaborate, compromise and deal with others’ emotions.

The ability to cope with and manage their emotions is an important skill that will impact all aspects of a child’s life, including their learning, health and wellbeing. Children learn about their own and other’s emotions through different forms of play, from free play to role-playing games and stories.

Team sports also encourage social-emotional development because they place emphasis on fair play and good sportsmanship. This teaches children to be resilient when facing challenges and that they need to work together as a team to achieve their goals.

These skills are the foundation for future relationships and can be honed through engaging with your children at home. Occupational Therapists can help your child to develop their social and emotional regulation skills through various methods of play such as water play, building lego or pretend play.