Why is Play so Important for Children?
There have been numerous studies published over the last decade on the importance of play for children. More than just plain fun, playtime is invaluable for neurodevelopment. Children engaging in play are actually picking up skills that serve them for the rest of their lives, including practicing some of their first experiences with language. As they move through different developmental stages, children’s behavior during play changes as well. This is a perfectly normal development and it is vital for learning lifelong skills such as:
- Sensory experience and tolerance
- Connection with themselves and others
- Stress relief and mental health overall
- Social skills
- Problem solving
In fact, play is so important for a child’s well-being, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, has called it a central component in developmentally appropriate practice, and the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights declared it a fundamental right of every child. Play is not frivolous and it’s not something to do after the “real work” is done. Play is the real work of childhood. Through it, children have their best chance for becoming whole, happy adults.
How Parents can Promote and Encourage Play
Learning happens most effectively when it’s unstructured and open-ended to better foster creativity in children. Hands-on materials such as blocks, sand, paint, balls and water are just a few examples of wonderful materials that will let a child explore the limitless possibilities of their imaginations. Nature offers endless wild and unstructured areas highly conducive for play. Rocks and trees become towers and castles and the wildlife provides colorful characters for their imaginations.
In most cases, a child’s playtime can be enriched if it’s shared with a caring adult. The reason for this is children may ask for the adult’s attention to try out a new skill or a more challenging task. A playdate with another family or friend is also a great way to help build a child’s confidence. Playdates give children the opportunity to build their social skills and observe similarities and differences from their own families.
Bringing the Perfect Play Space into Your Home
Time to set up a playroom for your child so that they can start their own adventure! There are a few key items and thoughts to keep in mind when selecting items for your playroom.
- Storage is key – make sure each item has a “home” and try teaching your child that when it’s time to clean up, everything goes back in its spot
- Child-sized kitchen – this is an area you’ll almost always see in homes and schools with children
- Arts and crafts area – paint, glue and paper, water activities! This will be one of the most loved spots of your playroom
- Reading nook – playing doesn’t always mean go, go, go. Reading a fun and colorful book can be just as entertaining and thought provoking for children
- Work with what you have! Get creative in your space, setup glow in the dark stars, create forts out of blankets. There’s no need to blow the budget, just use your imagination.
- Local parks – don’t forget your free resource with fresh air and sunshine!