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Children today spend less time playing than any other generation.
Instead of rolling around the neighborhood on a scooter or collecting bugs, children are spending four to six hours a day in front of televisions, smartphones, and tablets. Unfortunately, while screens can entertain and teach our little ones, they tend to do more harm than good when it comes to helping them develop essential learning skills.
For our kids to develop emotionally, cognitively, socially, and physically, they must engage in structured and unstructured play. Without the help of technology, kids will learn to flex their creative muscles and problem solve in real time. Plus, they’ll practice interacting with others, refine their motor skills, and even relieve stress.
As a parent, discovering how play helps to learn is essential to helping our children flourish. After all, play is serious business when it comes to our kids’ health.
Here are five reasons play benefits children:
1. Improves cognitive development.
Children at play are constantly solving problems, experimenting with new ideas, and learning more about themselves and the world around them. Whether they’re trying to complete a puzzle, stack blocks, or catch butterflies, playtime activities provide endless opportunities for developing and improving cognitive skills.
Of course, these skills will help them be more attentive students and more independent adults as they grow. But, more importantly, they’ll allow kids to see and process the world at their own pace. Then, our little ones can use play to process their thoughts and emotions further.
2. Fosters creativity.
One of the most important types of play is creative or unstructured play. While having an end goal is essential for accomplishing certain activities, open-ended play is equally crucial. This type of play allows children to explore different scenarios and outcomes without fear of being judged or corrected. There is no right or wrong answer in these instances, and kids are free to choose their storylines.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that free play fosters creativity. Moreover, as kids develop a more creative approach to life and its many challenges, their artistic and inventive attitude will likely support learning both in and out of the classroom.
3. Encourages communication.
Whether our kids engage in free or structured play, they’ll eventually invite other kids to join in on the fun. When they do, they’ll learn how to share, collaborate, and communicate more effectively.
Social play can also help children connect with their peers to work as a team and accomplish creative endeavors together. The more often our little ones interact with others, the more likely they will do so as adults. Thus, play might alleviate social anxiety, promote a more outgoing personality, and make it easier for them to ask for help.
4. Improves motor skills.
From the moment they’re born, infants begin learning and practicing fine motor skills like pinching, pulling, and squeezing. Eventually, they’ll incorporate sensory-motor skills to explore an object’s properties and experiment with abstract thought and concepts like symbolism.
As our children grow, play will also help them develop gross motor skills like running, skipping, jumping, and catching. Whether they’re climbing on the jungle gym or racing their siblings to the car, these skills will allow them to explore the world on a much larger scale, which will inevitably nourish their growing minds.
5. Relieves stress.
Kids soak up information like sponges during their early years, which can quickly overwhelm them if they have no emotional outlet. Luckily, playtime can help them decompress. In addition, when young children engage in play, they’re learning and reducing stress simultaneously, which can benefit their overall well-being.
When our little one starts acting up, we can take stress relief to the next level with outdoor play. An evening walk or spending an afternoon at the park can be helpful. Exploring nature and all it has to offer can improve our child’s mood (as well as our own) and allow us to see the world in a more positive light.
6. Providing more opportunities.
When it comes to helping our kids develop essential learning skills, providing more playful opportunities is key. Plan a few activities every week and remember to set aside time for free play. The more we allow our children time to grow bored, get creative, and explore, the more they’ll learn—even after they’ve left the nest.