Have you seen your toddler play for hours with a simple cardboard box? Or have fun with pots and pans or a piece of paper? Small children tend to play for a long time with the most commonplace items, throwing them around or banging them. As adults, we would wonder what on earth is so fascinating about the object that the child is so immersed in his play. This play stage, which is called functional play, starts during infancy and continues till the age of 2.
What is Functional Play?
A repetitive action which a child finds fun is called ‘functional play’. Experts describe the functional play as the ‘first play’ of a small child who uses something to entertain himself. This can include opening and closing things, throwing things, stacking blocks and knocking them down, pushing a toy here and there and banging objects together. Even though these activities are repetitive, it is a way for the child to know more about their world and the properties of physical objects they handle. This can prepare them to develop more complex skills going ahead and help them hone their gross and fine motor skills with practice. The functional play age of children can last from babyhood into toddlerhood.
How Does Functional Play Benefit Your Child?
Children love to play with simple items like blocks or empty pots and pans. Although they enjoy the sensory stimulation provided by these items, the benefits of playtime go far beyond sensory stimulation. It helps the child build his fine and gross motor skills along with his pre-literacy and thinking skills. For example, the below functional play activities can benefit your child in the following ways:
1. Arranging Cars in a Line by Colour
Although a simple activity, this can help the child identify and classify objects according to certain physical characteristics like shape and colour.
2. Arranging Interlocking Blocks in Position
When children snap interlocking blocks together without making anything in particular, the activity still builds a hand to eye coordination. This is what helps them identify what position the blocks can be snapped together according to their shape.
3. Throwing Something at the Wall and Watching it Bounce Back
This activity may result in a lot of noise and the danger of the object hitting someone else, but it will help your child learn the concept of cause and effect. Newton’s Third Law of Motion – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Functional play is an essential element of a child’s cognitive development. So it is the job of the parent to encourage it and not stop the child from doing it. Different from dramatic play, functional play does not focus on using toys or objects in conventional ways. Instead, your child will focus on the physical characteristics of the object and explore it as he sees fit. A cardboard box will be as exciting as a toy train set for him. So let them explore and enjoy!