The Importance of Play
Most parents naturally know children love to play. In addition to their natural desire for fun and silliness, playing is an essential component of learning and development. Play in the first two years of life is vital to healthy brain development. Worldwide health authorities recognise play as a child’s human right. Therefore the importance of play cannot be underestimated. Playing promotes a child’s brain development in many ways. Here are just six ways in which play aids development;
- Play facilitates development such as gross and fine motor skills. Playing including physical activities promotes motor skills, strength, and endurance, which benefits physical health.
- Play encourages the development of speech and language skills. Extensive research concludes play has massive influences on language skills. Play improves vocabulary, pre-reading, and writing skills.
- Play boosts creativity and imagination. Creative thinking helps with innovation and problem-solving. Play enables children to try, test, problem solve. Multiple studies have found that playing boosts divergent thinking.
- Play aids attention and concentration skills. There are many distractions in our busy world. Studies show concentrated play helps with patience and attention skills.
- Playing boosts self-esteem and builds confidence.
- Play encourages emotional development by providing opportunities for containment, reciprocity and management. Play is a safe way to experience challenges, risks and excitement. Research shows children who play often and face difficulties have higher impulse control and self-regulation.
Playing at home
Play doesn’t always have to involve toys. Your home is full of objects your child will enjoy discovering. Let your child explore the house using touch, taste, sound, smells. A wooden spoon and an upturned saucepan is a drum. A cardboard box can be a car or rocket. Allow your creative juices to flow.
Play is a cherished part of childhood that offers children developmental benefits and parents the opportunity to connect, engage and give their child positive attention. Multiple forces reduce many children’s ability to reap the benefits of play, such as time, distraction, preoccupation, mental health. As we strive to create the optimal developmental environment for children, it remains imperative that play is prioritised and immersed in daily life.
Play is important for adults too…
Life as an adult can be earnest. Adults carry a great deal of responsibility and pressure. It can involve a great deal of stress and anxiety. Personal fun and play can be at the bottom of our priorities after children, work and relationships. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, many people stop prioritising time for play. As adults, many of us find downtime in front of Netflix, online shopping or gaming. The importance of play appears to be lost. Play is not just essential for children; it can be a vital source of connection, relaxation and stimulation for adults. Play as an adult has many benefits.
Play as an adult fuels imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being. Adult play is an opportunity to forget about work and life commitments. It is a moment to be social in an unstructured, creative way. Play has many health benefits throughout life. Playing promotes many benefits for adults. Here are just four ways in which play boosts health;
- Play reduces stress, anxiety and depression – Play similarly to exercise triggers the release of endorphins. These are natural feel-good chemicals released in the body, which increase our overall sense of well-being.
- Play improves relationships – Play, laughter and fun increase feelings of connection, compassion, understanding, trust and intimacy. Fun also allows space to be vulnerable.
- Play boosts creativity – Children learn and develop through play. Research shows adults learn tasks easier when it’s fun and playful. Play stimulates imagination, innovation and problem-solving abilities.
- Play improves brain function – Play as an adult can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function.
- Solihull Approach – https://solihullapproachparenting.com/research/
- Schrader, C. T. (1990). Symbolic play as a curricular tool for early literacy development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 5(1), 79–103.
- Bergland, C. (2013). Childhood Creativity Leads to Innovation in Adulthood. Psychology Today.
- Punkoney, S. M. (2020). Play Impacts Early Brain Development – Stay at Home Educator. Stay At Home Educator.
- Pellegrini, A. D., & Holmes, R. M. (2006). The Role of Recess in Primary School. In D. G. Singer, R. M. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play = learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth (p. 36–53). Oxford University Press.