Children play because they like it. Parents are content to watch their children play together with others or alone. As long as a child is playing, everything is well with the world. It may seem prosaic, but there are infinite benefits to play during childhood. Below is a short list to begin the discussion.
- Improves Mental Health
- Builds confidence and self esteem
- Improves learning
- Promotes Socialization
- Builds Body
Pediatric Occupational Therapy employs play as the foundation for all therapeutic endeavors. It is a successful model for therapy in that the child is motivated to perform the assigned tasks and wants to please the therapist. Results are believable and incremental providing progress benchmarks for therapist and parents.
“Treatment for SPD typically involves occupational therapy (OT), which resembles playtime to parents watching an OT session for the first time.” according to Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
The play loft/tree house of OT equipment is a play area and each session becomes a chance for the OT child to demonstrate progress in a particular sensory category. Sensory input can be carefully controlled for each child. For example, a child needing sensory input can swing in the hammock or jump into the ball pit.
Sensory testing can provide valuable feedback of symptoms. After completing a normalization session in which the child becomes familiar and comfortable with his/her sensory condition, new sensory input can be provided to help calibrate limits of tolerance. ( Similar to when your eyes are tested for nearsightedness or farsightedness, you simply say whether the new input level is better or worse. )
In an article of Dallas, Fort Worth, Northtexas Child online news magazine, Sally Fryer says “. . . kids hang in hammock swings, throwing beanbags into baskets or pitching plastic balls at bowling pins. It looks like play, but it has another purpose: When absorbed in a game, the child learns to deal with previously dreaded situations.”
“The therapy helps establish and strengthen pathways in the mind (read ‘synaptic pathways in the brain’) that allow a child to overcome previously feared activities,” says Fryer. “For instance, if a child has tactile [touch] sensory issues, therapy will involve exercising the tactile nervous system, requiring the body to slowly learn how to more efficiently send information about touch to the brain.”
Once a child shows progress, the OT can instruct the parents as to ways to improve their child’s sensory diet based on proven therapies. For the rest of childhood, play and playful sensory curricula can improve/mitigate sensory processing symptoms and provide the grown-up client with self-regulation strategies for the rest of his/her life.
For follow up:
- Video-Discovery Place Kids, Rockingham, NC--Using the “I Can” theme, the museum empowers youngsters to become more confident, healthier and have a zest for lifelong learning.
- Follow this link to Therapeutic Listening by Katie Riley
- Check out this article Legos are more than imaginative play and video by Katie Riley(AOTA)
- AOTA Tips Learning Through Play
- Pretend Play — Embrace Your Chaos blog