Children playing can look like leisure time but you shouldn’t underestimate it. When children are fighting imaginary enemies, playing house, or organizing any other game, they are developing vital life skills and preparing themselves for adulthood and the challenges of the big world.
Unfortunately, free playtime has been rapidly shrinking for children. So check out these benefits of play and how you can encourage your child to play. Your child’s brain will thank you.
Children Learn About the World
Child’s play is one of the first ways children learn about their preferences and dislikes, as well as their abilities and interests. They experiment with different types of play and try to understand what they’ve observed. For example, children play with dolls imagining it’s them and it is a safe way for children to express and experience new feelings and ideas.
Helps Deal with Scary or New Problems
Have you ever seen your child pretending to be someone else? For example, children love pretending to be criminals and “shooting” each other. This is totally fine as it’s just the way of exploring new experiences that are uncommon, scary, or confusing.
Thanks to role play, children feel more comfortable and prepared for real-life events in a safe and fun way. Children often pretend to be someone else to prepare for challenging events, whether it is an absence of a parent, an illness in the family, or a house fire.
Develops Thinking and Social Skills
Children use pretend play because it requires communication, advanced thinking strategies, and social skills. Computer games simply can’t provide the same engagement. Through pretend play, children learn how to negotiate, share knowledge and ideas from one situation to another, respect others’ perspectives, balance their own plans with others, delay gratification, express and listen to others, develop plans and act accordingly, assign and follow roles and tasks, and analyze different information. Thanks to creative play, they develop the skills necessary to successfully manage future plans and work in teams.
Helps Cultivate Social and Emotional Intelligence
How children interact with other children is one of the most important factors of lifelong happiness and success. Knowing how to recognize and control emotions, read social cues, engage in a long-term activity, negotiate, and follow mutually beneficial plans aren’t easy tasks. There is no better option than creative and imaginative play when it comes to learning and developing these abilities.
Develop Knowledge and Skills
Since child development and learning don’t happen in a day or during isolated activities, children should have an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills. Child’s play is a perfect way to do this. For example, children can play grocery store. They sort foods by attributes as they group them together in sections, play together, assign roles, communicate, and solve problems, and more.
How to Encourage Child’s Play
Child’s play starts in a child’s mind. But it doesn’t mean you can’t help or shouldn’t join in. There are many ways to encourage your child to play and learn through it.
- Go along With Your Child
When your children tell you they are flying and leap through the air, don’t tell them they are just running around you. Instead, go along with them. Tell them that they are very high up and probably can’t even see the ground. You can even throw the pillows and say they can rest on a puffy cloud. Even better, you can fly with them.
- Choose Old-Fashioned Toys
Arts and crafts, dolls, blocks, and molding clays are toys that spur imagination and require creativity. They are much better than gadgets.
- Limit Modern Toys
Whether you have a junior laptop or an entertainment system, try to limit toys that require batteries. These toys direct the play and limit creativity.
- Read Together With Your Child
And while reading, ask your child many questions. For example, you can ask what your child thinks will happen next in the story or what a child would do if she was the main character. This promotes languages skills, develops imagination, and fosters an interest in reading.
- Find Time For Play
Make sure your children have enough free time to play. Aside from promoting imagination and creativity, it teaches them to use their free time to soothe or amuse themselves.
- Limit Screen Time
When children watch a movie or even something educational, they experience someone else’s impressions and beliefs instead of using their own imagination. Moreover, many TV shows aren’t appropriate for young children.
Preschoolers are more influenced by TV and especially by advertising because they can’t tell the difference between the real programs and commercials. The same is true for digital advertising that you can find in apps and online games. It’s recommended limiting screen time, including computers, TV, DVDs, tablets, and smartphones, to 1 hour for children up to 5 years old.
As the time of young children is taken up with scheduled activities and homework, it’s important to remember they can miss out on playtime. However, just a few hours of galloping around on imaginary ponies around the yard with fellow children are as essential as any other activity.
So next time you see your children engaged in play, don’t rush them to clean their room, do their homework, or practice sports. Give them time to build a rocket ship from blankets and chairs and pretend they’re flying to the moon; they spend time learning new things. You can always join them and craft a helmet from foil and a bowl.