Never underestimate child’s play – although it might look like simple leisure time, when kids are fighting dragons, riding unicorns and making potions they are actually developing crucial life skills and preparing their brains for the many challenges of adulthood.
Here are some of the many benefits of children’s playtime:
When kids play games, they try new things, imagine, invent, create, conquer their fears and interact with other children and the world around them. The context of playing is ideal for supporting and developing children’s creative and imaginative thought because it offers a fun, risk-free environment where they can explore and express themselves.
According to Creative Thinking and Arts-Based Learning Preschool Through Fourth Grade, when young children use their imaginations in play, they are generally more creative, perform better at school tasks and develop a problem-solving approach to learning.
Playing is very important for the healthy brain development of kids, as it is how young children learn to engage and interact with the world around them. According to the National Literacy Trust UK, “when kids play, they are actually learning key scientific concepts, such as what sinks and floats; mathematical concepts, including how to balance blocks to build a tower; and literacy skills, such as trying out new vocabulary or storytelling skills as children “act out” different roles. … they are also learning that they are loved and important and that they are fun to be around. These social-emotional skills give them the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to continue building loving and supportive relationships all their lives.”
Playing allows children to use their creativity and have fun whilst developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. When kids play they can create and explore a world that they can master and use to develop new skills, discover their areas of interest, practice their decision making skills and engage with their passions – all of which leads to enhanced confidence and resilience that they will need as they grow older.
Through play, children learn to make and practice new sounds, try out new vocabulary, exercise their imagination through storytelling and practice their verbal and non-verbal communication skills. When kids play (especially when this play is self-directed), they learn how to work in groups, share, encourage, support, negotiate and resolve conflicts. Play time can also help pre-schoolers to learn awareness of other people’s feelings, and to regulate their own emotions – skills that will serve them very well as they move through life. According to Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, a child development psychologist at Temple University, when children play, they get to try things out with no consequences, wear different social hats and master different social rules.
In contrast to passive entertainment, like computer games or television shows, playing builds active and healthy bodies. According to Earlychildhood News, “it has been proven that when a child is physically active and successful in their movements, they show higher levels of self-esteem and a greater sense of accomplishment.” When kids play, they develop physical, cognitive and emotional skills without even realising it. When they touch their toes, they learn about coordinations, balance and spatial relationships. When they play with a ball, they strengthen their fine-motor skills. When they dance, they learn about rhythm and how to move to a beat.
Playtime also increases their fitness, which has countless short term and long term benefits on their health. According to Earlychildhood News, “Fit children are more likely to participate in sports, dance, games, and other physical activities that improve muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardio-respiratory endurance, and body composition.”
Perhaps most importantly, playing makes children happy! Playing allows kids to socialise, develop new skills, make friends, accomplish new things and learn about themselves and others. According to Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, “Play is a natural state of childhood.”
So go on, give your kids a little extra play time from now on!
Also, get your children into other activities that could benefit them not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, as well. Learn about the amazing Benefits of Yoga For Children.