The Importance of Play
Play is so important to help children recover from the last year of living through a pandemic.
There is a huge body of evidence & research that shows that brain connections develop during periods of play. It is vital to emotional, physical, and intellectual development.
Parents don’t always understand the importance of play. However, in today’s competitive world, the temptation is to stop your children from “wasting time” and to put the time to what they believe is more constructive use.
For a child, however, there is no more constructive activity than play. When analyzing the importance of play, particularly if you’re tempted to introduce a more “worthwhile” activity such as flashcards, educational computer games, or dancing or karate lessons, you should have a deeper understanding of ‘play’.
Firstly, play allows a young child to be “in charge.” Often children are constantly being told what to do and how to do it in their everyday lives. They’re small and powerless so play lets them explore their world free from adult interference. Without an adult around, kids are exploring running the show!
Secondly, children learn about the world in which they live through play. They can investigate and discover, test their theories, explore spatial relationships as well as cause and effect. Children can enjoy role play and exploring family values such as kindness and patience. Such is the importance of play, that there’s virtually no area of life about which it can’t teach a child something!
Social and Emotional Benefits.
Play builds self-esteem as children will often play at something they know they can do well, so they feel successful. It also builds social skills. Children will begin playing with inanimate and non-threatening objects, like cuddly toys, bricks, etc, but they are practicing their interactive skills. Later, playing with other children will build on this foundation as they learn to share, take turns, assert themselves and begin to empathize with others.
Another benefit is that play provides the opportunity for children to work out their feelings. The importance of dealing with difficult or unpleasant emotions is immense. A child who’s worried about going to the dentist, for example, may deal with the anxiety by setting up a clinic for dolls with a toothache.
The role of parents in play shouldn’t be underestimated either. Research shows that children whose parents play with them ultimately develop superior social skills. Playing with your children builds up great family memories, bonds you together and makes life fun. It also builds bridges not walls, between you and shows you love and care enough about your kids to spend time with them doing fun stuff.
Playing doesn’t have to be hard work, complicated or boring. It can be doing simple and inexpensive things like riding a bike, playing on the swings, playing cards, a board game, or playing hide and seek.
The Importance of Play for Language and Creativity.
Play even helps with language development. Think of the vast number of words a child uses during play, many of them repeatedly, enhancing their language skills. It allows children to grow beyond their years. They can pretend to be all sorts of things in play – a café owner, a bus driver, doctor, a plumber, surgeon, a teacher, a postman, a chef, a firefighter…..
Also, consider the importance of stimulating your child’s creativity and imagination. Making a castle in the sand, or a car garage out of a shoebox, taking an order in their own (imaginary) café, or dressing up as a king or queen – these all allow children to stretch the limits of their world and experience the fun in make-believe.
So, never underestimate the importance of play whatever your child’s age.
Mindset is Key!
If you think your child’s holidays or weekends will be long, full of whining about “being bored” and stressful …… guess what … they will be! You get what you focus on 🙂 – similarly, if you think time spent playing will be fun, exciting, and an opportunity to create lasting, long-term happy memories for your children to grow up with – they will be too! It’s a choice!
Just take a moment to ponder your child’s wedding day one day and the memories you have built, nurtured, and created for them throughout their childhood – how do you want them to describe growing up with you and the summer holidays, weekends, or during this unusual time?
It’s all about your mindset as your children take their cue from you. Playing with your kids can be an opportunity to connect, engage and relax.
Here is a simple, practical idea to make life more fun.
“I’m Bored” Jar!
Find a jam jar and decorate it with glitter and ribbon and have fun creating your colorful ‘I’m Bored Jar’.
Get together and write down all the games and activities your children love to do from playing with playdough to building a den – and then cut up the list (which you can continue just keep adding to) and pop them into an “I’m bored jar” so when they say the dreaded words ‘I’m bored’ they can go to the jar and pick out an activity. This truly highlights the importance of play, a dedicated jar full of play ideas.
Don’t underestimate the power of playing outside. There are two fundamental reasons why outdoor play is critical for children.
Firstly, children develop their fine and gross motor gross skills through playing outside. As well as developing their dexterity and balance, all through exploring and risk-taking and having fun in the fresh air.
Secondly, children of today are growing up with so much technology, excessive TV and computer use that playing outside is really important and mustn’t be side-lined or lost, because it develops a child’s imagination, their physical stamina as well as keeping them fit.
Ask any adult about what they loved to play as a child. You will bring back happy memories of making mud pies, jumping in puddles, or climbing up trees.
In summary, outdoor play is one of the things that characterizes childhood. Children need opportunities to explore, experiment, manipulate, marvel, or discover. They need to practice, dam up, push their limits, yell, sing and create.
Learning About the World.
Young children learn lots of things about the world from playing outside:
How snow sounds when you pad about on it when it has first fallen.
The sound of ice when you crunch over it.
How autumn leaves feel and sound when you run through them on a sunny October day.
To explore the natural world by trying to stand sticks in the sand.
Gain an understanding of how plants grow.
Know how mud feels.
What it feels like to run down a hill.
How fast they can go on their bike with the wind blowing in their face.
Learning Outside is Fun!
Through playing, kids are learning about maths, science, ecology, gardening, nature, birds, and minibeasts. They feel the seasons, local weather, and how to entertain and occupy themselves easily and enjoyably.
Learning About Self and the Environment.
To learn about their own physical and emotional capabilities, children must push their limits.
How high can I swing or climb?
Do I dare to go down this big slide?
I wonder if I can go down the slide headfirst?
In short, to learn about the physical world, the child must experiment with the physical world.
Letting off Steam.
As a former Deputy Head and class teacher for 22 years, I found kids needed to “let off some steam” regularly from the sitting and listening mode of a classroom, and going outside to play was a very important part of helping them concentrate and learn both in and out of the classroom.
The Importance of Play for our Health.
Surveys have shown that children who learn to enjoy the outdoors have a much higher likelihood of becoming adults who enjoy hiking, gardening, jogging, bicycling, golf, tennis, or other outdoor activities. Therefore, playing and being active, plays an important role in keeping children from obesity.
Allowing Children to be Children
So, if you are a stressed out, tired, and tense adult – get yourself and your kids down to the park to play this weekend! Join in with the running, jumping, climbing, swinging, racing, yelling, rolling, hiding, and making a big mess. Let your BIG KID come out – you’ll laugh, release tension, have fun, get some exercise and relax!
You’ll also build some memories that will last all your lifetimes! Isn’t that what childhood is all about?
Sue Atkins is an internationally recognized Parenting Expert, Broadcaster, Speaker, and Author of the Amazon best-selling books. Titles include “Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children” & “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series. She is the author of the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy resources.
Regularly, Sue appears on the award-winning flagship ITV show “This Morning,” Good Morning Britain, and Sky News. Sue is the parenting expert for many BBC Radio Stations around the UK.
Sue is the Parenting Expert for Disney Family and records monthly podcasts and Facebook Live Tea Parties around ‘Parenting Hacks.’
Her ‘Can Do Kid’s Journal: Discover your Confidence Superpower’ is highly acclaimed. It gives children the gift of self-esteem and empowers them to become creative, innovative, independent, resourceful, resilient & confident in their own abilities. It encourages them to try new things & able to bounce back after setbacks.
Exclusive Content Platforms.
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This year, Sue also has created The Sue Atkins Book Club showcasing the very best in parenting and children’s books.
More About the Author:
Sue offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, resilient children and helps parents create happy childhoods, free from finger-pointing or judgment.
Furthermore, she specializes in supporting families through divorce & created the ‘Divorce Journal for Kids’ due for release in 2021. The journal aims to help children express, explore and understand some of the strong emotions that they may be feeling and to help them process the divorce for themselves. She has also created a series of Divorce Conversational Cards for parents. These cards help start the difficult conversations about the changes that families face when they are going through a divorce.
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