“It is becoming increasingly clear through research on the brain, as well as in other areas of study, that childhood needs play. Play acts as a forward feed mechanism into courageous, creative, rigorous thinking in adulthood.”

— Prof. Tina Bruce – London Metropolitan University

SUGRU offers Developmental Play Sessions where children can come and explore a child-centred and strengths-based playgroup that combines arts and crafts, music and movement, fine and gross motor exercises, and sensory exploration in a safe and exciting environment.

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Developmentally-Rich Play Activities include:

  • Painting: fosters fine motor skills, engages sensory exploration, increases confidence and promotes creativity.
  • Music & movement: advances coordination, balance, rhythm, expression, and creative intelligence.
  • Relaxation Techniques: helps relieve stress, improves cognitive performance, promotes kinaesthetic learning (body awareness), and boosts cardiovascular health.
  • Pretend Play: associated with lasting emotional regulation, increases expression of positive emotions, encourages behavioural modelling, and develops emotional understanding & social development.
  • Sand Play and Clay/Dough Play: Enhances motor, cognitive, sensory, and speech and language development

– Motor Development

During sandplay, children are constantly using their fingers, hand and arms (fine motor control), while practising overall body balance and coordination (gross motor control). When utilizing aids (scoops, shovels and spades) the muscles and joints in the arms are being exercised, which increases body awareness (kinaesthesia) and grading of muscle use for day-to-day activities. Hand-to-eye coordination can benefit especially from the practice of forearm rotation, hand grasp and wrist control.

– Cognitive Development

Skills include exploration, observation, decision-making, problem-solving, categorizing, comparing, construction, reasoning, logical deduction, cause and effect, and imaginative play.

– Sensory Development

Stereognosis, which is the ability to touch and subsequently identify objects without being able to see them, is promoted via the medium of playing with items in sand. The mediums of sand, clay and dough offer lots of different textures, which afford children many opportunities to experience and discriminate a variety of sensory information through the sense of touch.

– Speech and Language Development

Sand, clay and dough play, considered to be quite emotionally engaging activities, are effective at allow the child an opportunity to engage in spontaneous speech with the therapeutic facilitator. This environment promotes skills such as the discussion of observations, use of conceptual language (eg. rough/soft, more/less, bigger than/smaller than), question-asking, clarifying, requesting and offering.

Who is it for?

SUGRU’s Developmental Play Sessions are for children at a pre- pre-school age (2-3yrs) who would benefit from developmentally-rich play activities, which can enhance social, emotional, cognitive, physical and psychological development.

What to expect?

During SUGRU’s Developmental Play Sessions, pre- pre-school children will experience an environment that will help develop positive social interactions and ease separation anxiety in preparation for their first years of school. Children will engage in a variety of developmental activities including sand-, water-, pretend-, nurturing-, and puppet-play; Kids Can Cook; rhythm and dance; interactive story-telling; meditation; finger-painting; and free creative play.

When is it on?

Developmental Play Groups take place in a 10-week block weekday mornings at the SUGRU centre in Monksland. Each session lasts 90 minutes with parents welcome to join the group for the last 30mins for a sociable snack-time with the children. This also gives the parents an opportunity to meet other parents for information-sharing and support. Please contact us to register your interest in the next group of sessions.

Developmental play fosters development of key “21st century” skills which serve as a cornerstone for life-long success, including critical thinking, communication, problem solving,and collaboration. As identified by The Boston Children’s Museum in 2013, “these capabilities complement core subject matter knowledge and are highly valued in a world that is increasingly complex, competitive, and interconnected.” Developmental play also offers the possibility to improve adaptation and resilience capabilities. Playing changes the structure of the brain, specifically systems governing emotion, motivation and reward (Burghardt, 2005), and acts across several adaptive/resiliency systems to contribute to health and well-being, including pleasure (release of endorphin and serotonin); emotion regulation; stress response networks; attachments; and learning and creativity. For children, play is the creation of their individual world in which children are in control and can explore new and sometimes difficult situations in order to test new techniques, learn how to succeed, and/or improve from their mistakes. This is the method children utilize to accumulate a reserve of flexible responses to situation they encounter within their environment (Spinka, Newberry, & Bekoff, 2001). Some believe play itself is a form of behaviour engaged in for the sheer pleasure of being able to do it; however, play is far more than just a form of entertainment as it is a primary component of children’s health and well-being (Pellis & Pellis, 2009).

Oftentimes, adults make judgments about the constitution, definition, and quality of children’s play. However, this evades the very essence of what play is, which is a portrayal of the child’s life that is subjective, unexplored by anyone else and resists adult definition (Lester & Russell, 2010). Children, being children, have their own, and ‘other’, perspective, emotions and reasons for acting in the world, which comes alive in their play. For a child, the function of play is exploration and learning, development of new skills, expression, and connection with others. Through self-directed play, children follow their own personal interests, explore the unknown, link consequences with choices, conquer their anxieties, and make friends.

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“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”

— Joseph Chilton Pearse – author

Every child has the right to play. Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that:

  1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
  2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

To find out more about how the child’s state of play is that of true learning for a child; a necessary process to engage in for a child prior to entering into the educational system which is based upon the fundamentals of training and conditioning, watch this clip of Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child (1992).

Sugru1Developmental Play