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Why is play so important for children?

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Kids learn more about themselves and their environment through play than any other form of instruction. It includes learning how to coordinate their bodily motions, interact and communicate with peers, understand how to follow directions, and develop critical thinking skills, among other things. However, the learning process is far more extensive. Here are some of the mental health, social, and emotional benefits of play on children.

Children’s play and mental health

The brain development of a child is aided by play. It promotes cognitive development by rebuilding many brain regions that might otherwise be lost or weakened if they did not use them.

Play is also good for a child's cognitive abilities. It helps them remember facts, understand cause and effect, and discovering the world – and their place in it. One of our favorite activities for remembering numbers or letters is to sing them or make up silly games. This method of learning transfers to adulthood as well.

Children learn how diverse components of society fit together through play. It encourages children to use their senses and inspires inquiry and curiosity, both of which are necessary for intellectual development and cognitive processing.

Through play, children are also taught to imitate, create, and imagine. Imaginative, open-ended play benefits children because it allows them to think, strategize, and exercise critical thinking skills. This is what makes the Montessori education such an attractive option for families as it allows children to utilize play to guide their learning instead of more strict curricula.

Play and social life

Play is pivotal in the development of social skills. Kids get the opportunity to interact in ways they couldn’t otherwise by using their imagination, collaborative skills, cognitive skills, gross and fine motor skills, and emotional intelligence often at the same time. When they are playing a sport, it may not matter if a kid loses or win; what matters is that they work together and do their best. It is an excellent tool for children to socialize and understand how to interact with others in a fun way. Children will learn how to play collaboratively and with kindness by participating in cooperative play that observes a set of rules.

Simple game tasks, like playing with parachutes in a school gym or fitness center setting, for instance, are ineffective unless all of the children participate. To make "waves" with a parachute – or play a cat and mouse game – everybody should participate and take on a certain role.

In teamwork sports like football, kids build on one another's strengths and achievements while also cheering each other on. They must learn to collaborate in order to play safely and win against the other team.

Play and emotions

Play also aids in the understanding and processing of emotions in kids. Through play, children process their feelings and thoughts and learn new concepts and coping techniques.

When using imaginative play, kids are acting out fictional situations that give them the freedom to express feelings and learn how peers express their feelings. This can elicit emotional responses in children that they then learn to work through together to continue their play. When a kid loses a team game, they learn to cope with loss, rage, and regret. They also learn how to manage these emotions by congratulating the other team and celebrating what they and their teammates did well. Play also enables them to develop their sense of self by boosting their courage and confidence.

Playing should be encouraged throughout childhood (and really in adulthood) to help them develop emotional abilities such as:

● Practicing how to deal with their feelings

● Confronting their worries and stressors

● Trying something new without being afraid of making a mistake

● Developing critical thinking skills

● Learning how to communicate with others

Play is not just for young children. Older kids can use play to identify their own hobbies and passions.

The bottom line

Play is essential to children's development in many ways. It is the best way for kids to learn how the social-emotional skills needed to have positive interpersonal relationships throughout their entire lives. It is also important for learning difficult concepts that may become frustrating and create a disinterest in education altogether.

Adults can assist children in playing by offering chances and selecting when to engage and when to refrain. If you choose to participate in your children's play, be sure you don't try to dominate it or incorporate your learning objectives. Adult-led events have their place, but do not forget to allow children to direct and manage their own play.

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