Play is the way children learn about themselves and the world. Through play, they:
- Learn to get along with others
- Sort out conflicts
- Practice language skills
- Develop small (fine) and large (gross) motor skills.
In addition, play encourages independence, self-esteem, creativity, and gets their energy out! It gives children much needed “down time” and functions as a stress reliever.
Laughter, the best medicine
Just think about how great you feel when you participate in something you really enjoy. That’s what play is all about. When you play, you have fun; when you have fun, you laugh. Recent research has found that laughter is a powerful, readily available and cost-free way to boost your mood and psychological well-being. That’s what makes play worthwhile.
Value of group play
While solitary play is important, it is in group play that children learn how to get along with others and how to handle conflicts. They experience group processes of thought and the give-and-take of compromising. And in that sense, play is real-life learning. It helps them get ready for the everyday experience of interacting with others.
Enough time to play
It takes time to set up a play scenario, take roles, prepare props, decide with others how to proceed, and so forth. Through play, children develop who they are. Their cognitive, language and physical skills develop through their play experiences, as well as their imagination, concentration, self-confidence and sociability skills.
Watch them thrive
Taking a back-to-basics approach can be an easy and fun way for you to incorporate play into your child’s schedule. Provide toys that reflect the love and nurturing of your family. Children’s imagination and social skills thrive when they play with toys that provide them the opportunity to express similar emotions to what they see at home, whether it's a farmer taking care of animals, or a play house with a pretend family. Also, the backyard or neighborhood playground is ideal for physical, active play. Running alongside a youngster who is just learning to ride a trike or skates is great exercise for both of you.
Even though children’s schedules are busy with such activities, parents seem to feel that there is reasonable balance between structured activities and free time. While structured activities are part of growing up, it’s important that young children have:
- Enough time to play
- A safe place to play
- Friendly people to play with.
By making sure there’s enough time for play in your child’s schedule, you’ll be ensuring that your child has time to be just that … a child.
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.