Many parents and guardians know that children will naturally gravitate towards play. While some benefits are clear like bonding, and reducing boredom, there are a number of benefits that aren’t well known. Play is commonly associated with joy and happiness, however, it’s also a method of learning. And that is the main reason children can greatly benefit short and long-term from play.
Why is Play Important?
Identifying the importance of play is easy- to take advantage of all its perks. Early on, children can benefit from and harness this method of learning. Becoming more adept at interacting with the world and learning how things work will continue to increase their learning capabilities. This will follow them as their chosen path of play evolves and grows with them.
What are the Benefits of Play?
- Inspires early brain development
- Improves intelligence
- Encourages creative thinking
- Improves communication skills early on and later in development
- Advances language and vocabulary skills
- Promotes impulse control
- Boosts emotion regulation
- Builds social skills
- Cultivates empathy
- Betters motor skills, strength, and endurance
- Provides an outlet for stress and increases emotional resilience
- Decreases obesity and related diseases
- Provides the foundation for academic success
How to Help Encourage Play
There are a number of ways that parents and guardians can help children make the most of their playtime. Participating with your child, especially in pretend-oriented play is a great way for children to learn social and life skills. Time at the park or active activities like playing catch or jumping rope does great for the physical benefits of play.
Other ways to encourage effective play:
- Provide toys that can be played with in multiple ways
- Store play items safely while keeping them accessible
- Provide toys that can be appealing at more than one age or development level
- Avoid over-stimulation, this is especially important for babies
- Provide toys that can be used with other toys
- Balance out different types of play
- Limit play that involves screen time
- Encourage outdoor play that is physically active
- Allow them to work with you around the house like cooking and yard work for example
- Encourage new activity types like art, building, and science experiments
- Don’t allow your children to be too busy, self-encouraged play is important
- Make sure the play area is clean and childproof
- Allow built creations to remain out for a while for children to come back and reengage
Sources: HealthyChildren, NPR, Parenting for Brain, The Child Development Institute