By Sarah Lyons
Play comes naturally to kids. They use it to express their feelings and learn new things. In the age of electronics, video games and television can take over a child’s free time—especially during this pandemic. This is why it’s important to be intentional about creating opportunities where children can play freely, use their imaginations, and have fun. Traditional play can provide the following lasting benefits for children:
Social Skills and Leadership Development
Children learn valuable social skills that help them become successful as they grow. By taking turns, sharing and interacting with others, they learn how to respond appropriately to others. During play, they can practice their verbal and nonverbal communication skills. They also learn to negotiate when things don’t go as planned. Experimenting with different roles in their family and community as they pretend to play house, school or store helps them gain insight into the world around them and interpret the feelings of others.
Motor Skills Development
Children develop their fine motor skills through play. Using crayons to color a picture helps develop fine motor skills. Other activities that help develop fine motor skills are playing with play dough, cutting with scissors, stringing beads and using lacing cards. They also develop gross motor skills during playtime. Games like tag or hopscotch integrate the large muscle movement which will help children gain balance and spatial relationship to the world. Playing and climbing at the park helps kids learn to use their bodies and provides vital exercise for children.
Why You Should Play with Your Kids
Kids enjoy playing alone or with other children, but nothing quite compares to playing with a parent. Although we may be busy with work or household tasks, taking time to play with our children has lasting benefits.
Makes the child feel special
Helps you understand your child
Provides quality time together
Creates are one-on -one time with the child
Keeps you young and active
It’s fun for everyone
Problem Solving Skills and Emotional Development
Kids can work through their emotions by simplifying situations through play. This helps them express their feelings and regain control. They may act out something that scared them, like a car accident they saw while driving past. They may also play out something they are not allowed to do and then work through the consequences through play. “Play can be safe outlet to work through situations that cause them anxiety, such as starting school or visiting the doctor. Letting the child take on the role of the authority figure will help them process how events may unfold.” says Early Childhood Education Educator, Kara Thomas.
Development of Imagination
Play builds a child’s imagination. You can help your child with imaginative play by role playing with them. Call them on the pretend phone, ask them to cook you lunch in the play kitchen or have them use the doctor kit to do a check up on you. Engage them in conversation while you act out these scenarios. Often, you will be surprised at their perceptions. By role playing, they learn to better understand their surroundings and build their imagination.
Traditional play time allows kids to work through their emotions healthily and develop important skills. It is vital to provide a child with adequate play time in their day, especially with all the distractions in today’s digital world. The best part is, the kids will have so much fun, they won’t realize they are learning.