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The Importance of Play
Pediatricians, psychologists, and child development experts agree that play is essential to a child’s development. Despite the proven benefits to a child’s physical, social, cognitive, and emotional well-being, the amount of play time that children actually have continues to dwindle.
Play is the mode in which children explore and learn about the world. It provides a pathway for trying new skills, imagining all that is possible, and developing relationships with peers and adults.
Developing children need play for brain stimulation and growth. Fine motor skills such as holding a crayon and gross motor skills such as jumping up and down are positively impacted by play. Children who move around learn body control and spatial awareness.
Social skills such as language and communication are also enhanced through play. Children have an opportunity to role-play and to mimic behaviors they observe in others. Play also impacts social development by helping children learn to share, accept responsibility, and understand differences in others.
Play is essential to a child’s ability to heal, resolve conflict, and move through trauma. Before language is fully developed, they play through their emotions and work things out with action. Play is a healthy mechanism to teach children coping skills and conflict management communication.
A child who plays is a child who imagines. Creative skills are essential for discovering dreams and setting goals. The playroom is a safe space for children to experiment and explore. Creative skills will also benefit children when pursuing a goal. They will be better able to identify options and explore resources.
When parents intervene with children’s play – when they instruct a child how to complete their art project, when they restrict a child’s expression during play, when they remind a child of the proper use of a toy – they are inhibiting the child’s development of self. Safety aside, a child should be free in play and should be encouraged to use that space for exploration, imagination, and experimentation.
Are you a parent who provides healthy meals for your child? Do you ensure that she gets enough sleep at night? Do you help him remember to brush his teeth, wash his hands, and take care of himself? Do you also make sure they play?
Each year, our lives become more fast-paced. Our schedules become more crowded. Our free time diminishes. It is more difficult to ensure that our children have the proper playtime, but it is also more crucial. If there is a gift we should give to our children, it is the gift of play.
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