- February 2020
- Vol. 21, No. 1
Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting
Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child has a multimedia guide, How-to: 5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return, focusing on "serve and return," which is the give-and-take interaction between children and caregivers. One video in the series, "The Role of Play in Any Setting," describes the important role play and relationship building have on child development and positive outcomes. The video is based on three principles from the science of child development—supporting responsive relationships, strengthening core life skills, and reducing sources of stress—and how play is an effective way to support them. Children and youth involved with child welfare often have a history of trauma and must deal with uncertainty, which can lead to attachment disorders.
Play in early childhood is a way to build a child's brain and helps them develop relationships through social interactions. Different types of play contribute to the three principles in different ways. Some types of play, such as building, can help strengthen their ability to plan, which is a life skill. Other types of play encourage flexible thinking or relationship building. For example, a musical installation in Boston, MA, encouraged families waiting at bus stops to play and interact.
Play also reduces stress levels in children and families and allows the practice of coping skills. Learning how to process experiences and express them in developmentally appropriate ways is an important, resilience-building skill for children who have experienced trauma.
Additional videos and materials in the guide provide additional details about serve and return, including the importance to responding appropriately to infants and how to engage in serve and return interactions.
Watch "The Role of Play in Any Setting" and the explore the rest of the guide at https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/play-in-early-childhood-the-role-of-play-in-any-setting/.