Think back to when you were growing up and there weren’t computer games or as much concern about children not being safe playing outside. How did you spend time with your friends? Chances are you had more time to play and to imagine than your children have nowadays.
Undirected play allows children to express their creativity and develop their imagination, physical strength, and problem solving skills. When young children play with friends, social skills and emotional responsiveness are learned and practiced. If children had enough time and encouragement to play outdoors, chances are there would be fewer overweight children.
Play also affords the opportunity for parents and children to engage fully and enjoy each other, which is an important ingredient to positive discipline. If you spend time with your child, they are less likely to misbehave to get your attention. Unfortunately, in the fast paced world we live in, play is sometimes eliminated as families put other pressing things on their daily schedule. Children need down time. Even though after-school activities directed by adults can be fun and educational, children blossom when they have time to discover what they want to do, and time to play.
- Builds healthy bodies and is important for healthy brain development
- Teaches children to take turns and play fair
- Can increase cooperation, empathy, and impulse control
- Offers a way for children to work things out that bother them, and to cope with difficult situations and traumatic events
Play ideas for young children:
- Build with blocks and knock them down
- Expand imagination with a dress-up box filled with scarves, hats, and clothes
- Build forts with blankets and sheets draped over chairs or tables. Pillows from an old couch can turn into a cave or hiding place
- Play with stuffed animals and dolls, that sometimes turn into parents, teachers, or pretend friends
- Climb, jump, or swing. Go to a beach and play in the sand. Act silly and laugh
As we watch children at the park pretending the climbing structure is a rocket ship, or dressing up like a clown, we are reminded of the joy of play and the value of imagination. Enjoy your kids! Enjoy yourself!