September 6, 2013

Why Play Time Matters for Your Kids

Children learn through play. Isn’t it wonderful? As they have fun, they’re developing skills and learning about the world around them.

Here are some of the reasons why play time matters for your kids.

1. Learning about the World

Give a child a cardboard box, and you’ll see creative play at work! A cardboard box may have a lot to teach someone so young. The box reinforces shapes and how they act (boxes don’t roll, for instance; they have a limited capacity; cardboard tears under too much weight, etc.). And a simple toy like a box stimulates a child’s imagination.

2. Learning about Themselves

During play, kids discover something vitally important: some of their special talents, strengths, and abilities… as well as some of their weaknesses. Play time may help a child discover that he or she is really good at hitting a ball, that she has a strong throwing arm, or that she is a very coordinated dancer. Children might discover they are fast runners, good musicians, or any number of special talents…all because they were able to spend some time in play.

3. Learning about Others

Play time is also a time to discover things about others. Children learn that there are differences in how they do things and how their friends do things; they begin to see that they may not have the same strengths and weaknesses as someone else. They also learn that not everyone reacts to things the same way, or offers the same solutions to problems.

In addition, personal preferences come to light during play. Some like quiet, imaginative play while others like active play. Children learn to put these different aspects of people’s personalities together to construct their own fun play time. They learn compromise and flexibility. After all, no one wants to play with the child who always wants to do things his/her way.

4. Physical Exercise

Playing – especially active outdoor play – encourages kids to get moving and exercise. Many medical experts agree that there is a childhood obesity problem; perhaps play time can help work toward alleviating this problem.

5. A Remedy for Anxiety, Depression, and Other Emotional/Mental Issues

During play time, whether alone or with others, children do not have to meet adult standards or expectations. There are no grades, tests, or other such things. It’s amazing what spending time in a world without pressure can do for a child’s mental and emotional well-being.

I leave a large part of my children’s day unscheduled and unstructured so they can engage in free play — to explore and learn about others, themselves, and their environment — and reap the benefits of play.

How do you encourage play time for your children?

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Alexis Rodrigo