That member governments 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.”
Whenever you watch a child at play you can see total immersion to the world that they are currently occupying. They have the freedom to be whoever or whatever they choose to be. Much of the evidence from neuroscience suggests that, rather than developing specific skills that may be needed later in adult life, playing is a way of building and shaping the regions of the brain that are concerned with emotion, motivation and reward, and developing a range of flexible responses across a number of adaptive systems that link the brain, the body and the social and physical environment (Burghardt 2005). In addition to this vital process for brain development, play also has a significant part to play in more physical development of the fine and gross motor skills.
Within the play-based learning environment, young children will have many different ways of representing their thoughts and feelings. Some will choose music, dance or song, others will prefer to tell stories through role-play, drama or using small world resources, but at some point most children will be naturally drawn to represent their ideas through ‘mark-making’.
Before children even learn to hold a pen they begin to explore ‘mark making’ through a range of play based activities. Children prefer dough, fingerpaints, building blocks and threading activities for a long time before becoming really capable or interested in pen/ tool focused handwriting practice. Within this broader play-based learning we can see the development and refinement of the fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, core body strength and postural control, which is required for the more precise skills and dexterity of drawing and handwriting.
A very clear example of children only being able to do what they can at the appropriate age and why nurturing the whole body and not focusing in on the tool, the pen or pencil, is so important is from Ruth Swailes, a UK School Improvement Advisor recently shared insightful x-rays of a child's hands at approximately 7 years old in comparison to x-rays from a 5 year old child during the Early Years Foundation Stage. As an image, it prompts us to think about handwriting and handwriting development occurring “in an age-appropriate way, matched to children’s physical development.”