Play is the avenue through which children EXPLORE and have HANDS-ON EXPERIENCES in their environment to understand about the world around them. Play can appear in any forms and starts in early childhood!
When you see a 3-month old lifting up his/her fingers and fiddle with them, this is play; s/he is exploring her body parts to understand the presence of his/her fingers and the use of them.
When you see a 6-month old trying to look for an object you covered up, this is play; s/he is exploring object permanence and developing his/her fine motor skills to find the "hidden" object.
When you see a 9-month old throwing things down from a height, this is play; s/he is exploring cause-and-effect of what happens when the things are thrown (they can be re-directed to explore appropriate cause-and-effect instead of throwing inappropriate objects).
When you see a 12-month knocking over blocks, this is play; s/he is exploring what s/he can do with the blocks.
Play begins early on and this is the exploration that sets foundations for the understanding of the world. Through play, children develop holistically. A holistic development entails cognitive (including (communication and language), emotional, social and motor growth.
When children's brains are not actively and positively stimulated during the early years, there may be adverse effects on the brain growth and learning of the child in the long run. There are many benefits to play during early childhood development.
Play is vital to greatly stimulate cognitive development in the early years. They include language (communication) skills, thinking skills, creativity development, problem solving skills, memory training, listening skills, improving concentration span and to gain knowledge.
During play, children develop emotionally as they build their self-esteem/confidence, build their patience and perseverance, understand the range of emotions, understand conflict occurrences, learn to overcome their fears, make positive decisions and also develop self-regulation.
During play, children learn to interact with one another to develop social skills. They learn to cooperate and collaborate in groups, resolve conflicts, follow rules, understand empathy, and learn to follow or lead. This can be modelled by adults to let them understand some social norms to set them up for success during social interaction.
When children fiddle with their toys, they develop motor skills progressively, including developing their big muscles (gross motor skills) and small muscles (fine motor skills). It also aids in sensory development, eg. looking in the direction of sounds or visual perception etc. Many play activities also stimulate vestibular and proprioceptive development. The vestibular sense is the sense of balance and coordination in our body. The proprioceptive sense is a gauge of the position of each body part in relation to one another and how much effort is required to do things.
We always curate a range of toys in our play space at home to ensure that our children develop an appropriate range of skills for their holistic development. We understand the importance of developing 21st century skills of critical thinking, imagination & creativity, communication and collaboration, hence our range of toys aim to develop these target skill sets too.