Breakfast. School. Work. Emails. Bills. Homework. Lunch. Dinner. Baths. Whew. The list never ever ends! And while it didn’t seem possible that life could get more hectic than it already was, here we are.
But amid the chaos, we’re enjoying more time together. We’re observing how our kids interact with teachers and classmates. And we’re learning that sometimes, the best thing you can do is put the to-do list aside and take a break to simply play.
Play might seem like another to-do. But here’s the thing: It’s a to-do that comes with way more benefits (and fun) than work. And, it’s good for everyone – from babies and toddlers to school children and adults. And, it really doesn’t have to be hard work.
Why We Love Play
Besides being a lot of fun, play has an almost endless list of benefits for children (and adults).
Play is one of the best ways children learn. It’s how children learn about themselves, it’s how they figure out how the world works, it’s how they build connections with people they know – and people they don’t.
- Play Helps Children Develop Creativity & Unique Perspectives
Through play, children are encouraged to be creative and use their imaginations. Watch as your child plays pretend and you’ll see them create worlds all their own, turn ordinary objects into imaginary castles and forts, act out scenarios and plays, and much more.You’ll see them create, make choices and decisions, and express themselves. You’ll also see them exploring their interests, their likes and dislikes, their communication styles and more. As they flex their creativity, imaginations and personalities, they’re building skills that will help them connect with others, that will help them solve problems, and that will help them navigate the world around them.
- Play Helps Children Learn Communication & Collaboration Skills
As children play, they develop important communication and collaboration skills that help them express themselves, relate to others, and play well with others. Observe your children playing with others and you might be surprised to see how much communication, collaboration and learning is really going on. For instance, watch as a group of children work together to build a pretend castle, or as they figure out who does what in a game of pretend restaurant. You’ll notice that as children play, they’re paying attention not only to what others are saying, but to their facial expressions and body language, to their behaviors, and to their actions – and then they use their observations to interact. As they figure out how to communicate, what others are saying and feeling, and how to interact, children are building skills that will help them navigate many other situations as children and adults.
- Play Helps Children Develop Healthy Social & Emotional Skills
Play helps children learn about themselves – and about others. It helps them learn about their feelings and emotion, and about how to express themselves and manage their own emotions. Children also learn about the feelings, emotions and needs of others as they play. They learn how to listen, to share ideas, to compromise, and how to understand others needs and emotions. Play also helps children build relationships with others – including with their parents and caregivers, with siblings and friends, and with other children who may be similar or different from them. The social and emotional building blocks that children develop through play help them better understand themselves, help them build connections, and help them be part of the world around them.
Easy Tips for Powerful Play
There’s no doubt that play is good and necessary for kids. But how do you go about making play powerful and beneficial without it being a lot of work?
Set the Scene for Play: Oftentimes, children will begin to play all on their own. Sometimes, though, providing them with ideas, objects and encouragement – basically setting the scene – can help children play in new and powerful ways.
- Provide Props: Set out boxes, pillows, and blankets and encourage children to build a castle.
- Provide Prompts: Encourage children to put on a play – and ask questions like “and then what happened?” or “where are you exploring next?”.
Try out different types of play: There are of course lots of ways to play – from physical play where children are exploring movement and activity – to cooperative play where children are encouraged to play with others. Trying out different types of play can help you and your child explore interests and activities you enjoy while helping them learn.
- Physical Play: Encourage children to get active (and burn off some energy!) while developing motor skills, coordination, strength and more. Try things like jump rope, exploring a nearby playground, creating a dance routine, and practicing a new sport.
- Dramatic Play: Help activate children’s imaginations through dramatic play. Encourage kids to make believe, to play dress up, to create a pretend restaurant, or to put on a play.
- Parallel Play: Help children practice new skills and learn by having them play or create side-by-side with you or another child. Try drawing, creating an art project, or building objects out of Legos® while sitting side-by-side – and encourage conversation about what your creating!
- Cooperative Play: Encourage children to play together. Try having children play a game together, build something together or create an art project together.
Explore New Places & Activities Together: One of the ways that children learn about what they’re interested in – and about how the world works – is by having the opportunity to explore a variety of different places and activities. And, as children explore, they are also making important connections that help them learn, develop and grow. A few ideas to try out:
- Explore new parks, trails or outdoor locations. You might try going on short, family-friendly hikes, checking out different playgrounds, or simply observing the plants, trees, and animals that call the park home.
- Visit museums and attractions. Go on a family outing to the local zoo or aquarium. Check out the children’s area of a local art museum. Explore children’s museums and attractions.
- Check out a new town or place. Take a short day trip to a nearby town or city – and talk about what’s the same and what’s different. Go on a virtual (or in person) visit to a far away place – explore things that perhaps you and your children have never seen before.
- Try out different events and programs. Go to a festival where you can explore lots of different types of foods, activities or music. Try out an art class, music lesson, science experiment, and more.