Mommy can I play with you? It was a long day at work and I was exhausted. Yet those big brown eyes looked at me with excitement. She had a frisbee on her hands and wanted me to throw it at her. I knew it was time to be present and in the moment. It was time to lay all chores aside and play with my daughter. I sometimes find it hard to disconnect from worries and duties. However, I know it is essential and it is something that I need to work on and continue to improve. We all live hurried and pressured lifestyles that may hinder the kids from having free time to play. We are so worried about academics and extracurricular activities that we may have little to no time for unscheduled child driven play.
What are the benefits of play?
Free play helps children develop their imagination. It boosts their creativity by exploring the world around them and giving them the opportunity to practice roles and conquer their fears. When we allow the kids to direct the play, they learn decision making skills, learn more about themselves, their passions and their interests. They acquire leadership skills and are able to develop resilience and self-confidence.
As for the physical benefits, playing helps kids stay active. This results on a healthier body. When parents are involved, they are able to see world through their eyes and they can better connect with each other. By providing them our undivided attention, we can build stronger relationships. It gives us the opportunity to communicate better with them because we are able to understand them better, and learn more about them through play.
In the academic environment, play helps children to adjust better to a school setting and improve child’s readiness to learn. Free play on the academic environment allows for children to connect with peers, which contributes to their social-emotional learning.
In conclusion, play is essential to child development by contributing to the cognitive, social, physical, and emotional well-being of children and youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we allow our children to have “ample, unscheduled, independent, non-screen time to be creative, to reflect and to decompress”.
As parents, we have the ability to nurture our little ones. We can help them be resilient and help them develop more confidence. Through play, we can help prepare them for a more successful future. I challenge us all to make room and make this part of our daily routines. Yes, academics are important. Yes, extracurricular activities are important. But we cannot forget that our children will thrive so much on the time that we spend playing with them.
Let us play more!
You can read more from the AAP recommendations at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182