Narrator (Catherine Sewell, play specialist): Play is so important for children and it’s not just a flippant thing that they do on the side of their real development. Play is their development. So, on one hand it brings lots of joy and connection to family and to other children and for themselves, which, of course, is so important, but on top of that there’s a whole lot of other development that’s happening. So, within their brains there’s all these amazing connections being made neurologically as they’re playing, and then physically through their bodies all the way from the fine motor skills, they’re using their hands, but also their gross motor and their physical muscle development and their core strength, and then all of the social and emotional connections that children learn and practise while they’re playing with others.
So, if I was going to describe how the brain develops and how it relates to play, I might start by saying there’s all these kind of separate points in the brain, a bit like a night sky. So, we’ve got all these stars all over the brain and, when we experience something, a connection is made between these points, and the more often we experience that thing, the stronger those connections are, and you can see that in the way that children repeat things naturally during play, and that’s because developmentally their brains are making that connection nice and strong.
And those connections are made in all sorts of ways. So, they’re made by learning physical things, you know, as we learn to walk and talk, but also they’re made by social and emotional connections, so how we relate to other people and how we relate to love or how we relate to fear. Those connections become strong too.
And then after about the age of 8, what happens is the tree prunes itself. So, the connections that weren’t very strong that we haven’t used much in our life so far, those ones start to fall away, and we’re left with just the strong branches, and those strong branches become the basis of our adult brain, and the way that relates to play is that play is like fireworks going off in the brain on a sensory level, on a cognitive level, on a physical level. So, there’s a lot of firing happening in the brain at the same time, so we’re getting optimal brain development while children are playing.