My six-year-old son is so proud. Without any help, he built a “house” in the living room: he used chairs, a blanket, and clothes pegs. My three-year-old daughter was very excited and filled it with a bunch of furry toys, plastic plates, and pillows. They say they live on the beach where they fish. A trivial game that is a pretty good representation of what is going on in my home and in yours…
Yet, when we pay more attention to this anecdote, we realize that my children were actually learning how to organize and coordinate themselves, create a scenario, and set rules and roles while letting their imagination run wild. Not that trivial, actually! “Children learn everything through games”, said Gilles Cantin, Didactic Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal. “They learn about their motor, cognitive and affective skills. The latter is the basis for the rest”, asserts Francine Ferland, occupational therapist and Professor Emeritus at the School of Medicine of Université de Montréal. “Thanks to satisfying interactions with the parents, children develop their self confidence and trust in others.”
When playing games, children learn how to structure their thoughts; they develop their curiosity and become aware of the impact they can make. They address the situation from different angles, develop their creativity, and find solutions. In a nutshell, children experience “the pleasure of interacting and the pleasure of learning, which correspond to the pleasure of being active and the pleasure of living”, Ms. Ferland said.
Researchers Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong* believe that “leading activities” exist for children of different ages.
– 1 year old and less: developing significant links with adults
Game example: reciting rhymes (words and gestures)
– 18 months to 2.5 years old: discovering the attributes of objects
Game example: piling up blocks, knocking them down, starting over
– 3 to 6 years old: imitating adults and recreating their world
Game example: impersonating a cashier at the grocery store
When playing with their children, parents can also learn a whole lot of things. First, they get to know their children better. Then, they get introduced to the art of relaxing and enjoying the present…
*Source: Les Outils de la pensée, published by Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2009.
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