As an occupational therapist my job is to enable clients to participate in self-directed daily occupations. Occupations is defined by The Academy of Occupational Therapy Association as, “… various kinds of life activities in which individuals, groups, or populations engage, including activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.” Play is an important need-fulfilling occupation for everyone, adults and children alike. Through play we develop competence, self-confidence, self- expression, self-awareness, problem solving skills, social awareness and skill development.
Play is considered the main occupation for children. Play is the foundation for all skill development that comes later. It develops confidence and mastery of our environment and promotes self-regulation and bonds with family and peers. Play also promotes relaxation as well as stimulating the brain and body. In short, play is a fun way to develop motor skills, executive functioning, creativity, problem-solving skills, and overall health and well-being.
Play can be categorized in many ways: Pretend Play, Gross Motor Play, Fine Motor Play, Sensory Play, Visual Perceptual Play, Auditory Play, etc. Children need a well-rounded play experience for optimal development. A healthy balance between work and play is important for everyone but for children it is vital to their development and long term health and well-being.
With busy schedules and budget cuts a well-rounded play experience is not always available. It is important to find ways to provide scheduled or unscheduled play time each day. Encourage pretend play and outside play, imagination and creativity, peer play and turn taking.
Some children have difficulty learning to play and require help. If you notice that your child is having difficulties such as always requiring an adult to play or to help with ideas for play, unable to play independently, difficulty initiating play with peers, and/or any physical (fine/gross motor) delays impeding their ability to play then asking your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist may be warranted.
The Academy of Occupational Therapy Association (website).
Case-Smith, Jane. (2015). Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents (7th ed.). Elsevier.