The Importance of Play in a Child's Development

Although much recent attention has been focused on back to school plans, it’s important to remember there is still some summer left! For little kiddos, summer means plenty of outside play time, exploring and having fun.

But it seems as if play has taken a back seat to technology and more structured activities. Days are programmed instead of offering time for free play. And with many parents facing the reality of online learning, how can you make sure that play is a part of your child’s day with all of that screen time? First, it’s worth noting why play is so important.

Play helps with development 

Play helps children learn physical, cognitive and social skills, all of which are critical to their development. It’s also believed by some experts that play may actually contribute to the structural design of the brain; that play can create a brain that has more potential for learning throughout a person’s life.

 Play teaches discovery

Play is one of the first opportunities children have to explore their surroundings and investigate how things work, sound and move. This type of play helps children use their brain in lots of different ways as they explore the meaning of things. Play surrounding the use of the imagination, or “playing pretend,” also assists with promoting self-expression, creativity and self-confidence.

 Play helps children grow emotionally 

We all can think of a time when we’ve set a goal, worked hard to reach it and felt a sense of accomplishment. Play for children can present the same feeling. A child might be nervous about making it all the way across the monkey bars, but they work at it, make it across and have a feeling of pride. The fear melts away and is replaced with a booted self-esteem. It is instances like these that occur during play that contributes to a child’s emotional growth.  

Getting Your Kids to Play

Facilitating play doesn’t require expensive toys or manuals to read. It’s simply letting your child safely explore their world.

Consider using things you already have to help promote play. Items like cardboard boxes, plastic food containers, milk carton caps, pillows, scratch paper, art supplies and blankets can all be turned into something with a little imagination. Really, the sky is the limit.

Soak up the remainder of the summer by getting your kids outside to play. Here are few ideas to consider:

 Outdoor options for play

  • Play games like tag or sack races. Better yet, make up your own game!
  • Give outdoor yoga a try.
  • Explore your local park or nature preserve. Count the birds or see how many colors you can find.
  • Give your child a small garden shovel and see what they dig up! Or, if you have a family garden, give them an area in your yard to create their own imaginary one.
  • Make an obstacle course – who can be the most creative?

 Don’t let the rain get the best of you! Rainy day indoor play ideas may include:

  • Play dress up
  • Build a fort and see where the story takes you
  • Art projects with paint, clay or blocks
  • Play kitchen or restaurant using pots and pans
  • Have a dance party

Remember that play is all about having fun. It’s entertaining, sometimes messy but always an adventure. Give your child the opportunity for more free play and let the summer end on a high note.

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