The Importance of Play

“Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination, and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” says Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA.

Play comes naturally to children as they begin to be curious and start exploring their surroundings. It is essentially a fun way in which they can gain positive, educational experiences. Young children interact and engage in the world around them through play. It is scientifically proven that children learn and gain valuable skills through playing with parents or their peers. In a child-driven playtime, children can practice moving at their own pace, learn about decision-making skills, discover their areas of interest, and engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. 

Encouraging play and incorporating it with learning at home can be surprisingly easy! Thankfully, as children are naturally curious and full of wonder, they don’t always need the latest toys or gadgets to be entertained. Kids find entertainment with even the simplest objects already in your household, like drumming on pots and pans, making forts out of boxes, and making costumes out of bed sheets. When they’re having fun while learning, they develop a positive approach to learning.

Keep on reading to learn some of the important benefits that children gain through playing.

It improves intelligence.

One of the best ways to stimulate brain development in children is incorporating play as they explore objects and physical spaces and learn to process sights and sounds.  

Free play gives kids the opportunity to hone their decision-making skills. When presented with the right environment and toys, children will select a game and focus their attention on that activity through to the end. This experience sharpens their planning skills and attention span. The more they exercise their brains, the more they develop cognitive control while having fun! Brain-teasers, puzzles, and strategy-based games help reinforce critical thinking skills.

It sparks creative thinking.

The most obvious benefit of playing is that it increases a child’s creativity. Play gives kids a chance to truly let their imaginations run wild and create imaginary worlds of their own. It provides them the freedom to explore new possibilities and think outside the box. Creativity allows children to explore many possible solutions and creative ideas. An unstructured play like pretend-playing encourages children to explore and design their games, plan their own stories, and make their own props. Pretend play requires a child to imagine scenarios and then act them out. The freedom of these types of playing allows children to be creative.

 It improves communication and language use.

By playing with peers, children learn the art of communication. They recognize facial expressions and body language and learn to express their thoughts to avoid causing problems to the whole group.

Pretend play is a perfect type of play that enhances communication development and literacy. A role-playing game also gives children a chance to use words they’ve heard from adults and other kids, and this helps improve their vocabulary. As your child grows older, word-based games help reinforce language and literacy skills.

It promotes social and emotional growth.

Some of life’s greatest treasures are your childhood friends! And it’s through play that kids learn how to create and maintain those friendships. Playing helps enhance social development in children and is a significant opportunity to cultivate social skills.  

Cooperative play helps kids nurture their social skills as they figure out how to interact and engage in a group. It teaches them how to collaborate and compromise with others, recognize and respond to others’ feelings, show affection, and resolve conflicts. Social skills are needed not just for forming relationships but also for supporting academic success!

It enhances physical skills.

When you think about it, physical play is one of the most memorable aspects of childhood. Active play is vital for children’s physical development. It helps children practice their coordination, balance, gross-motor skills, and fine-motor skills or smaller movements. There’s plenty of studies about the health benefits of living an active lifestyle, and the same is true for our children. Research shows that physically active kids tend to be leaner and healthier. Physical play also helps children use up their natural stores of energy (a must!) and promotes better eating and sleeping habits.

It strengthens relationships with parents and peers.

Parents who make time to play with their children form a stronger bond with them. Even a simple guessing game can become a special bonding moment for both parents and children.

Most children also form unique connections with their childhood playmates and often end up being best friends when they grow older. These moments provide positive life experiences that don’t just stimulate children’s brain development but also give them memorable experiences when they grow up. Playing together allows parents and children to be closer and know each other better. Most importantly, it allows adults to see from a child’s perspective and have fun while learning together!