Why Play is Vital for Your Child’s Development

While play might seem like fun and games, it’s crucial to the healthy growth of children into young adults so let’s review Why Play is Vital for Your Child’s Development.

Here are five ways you can encourage your child to play more each day.

While play might seem like fun and games, it's crucial to the healthy growth of children into young adults so let's review Why Play is Vital for Your Child's Development.

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Physical Health

Play is a crucial component in developing your child’s physical health because it’s active and keeps kids moving.

Simple games on the playground, like playing tag with friends, can accelerate your child’s heart rate, lowering their risk for childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The earlier you make active play a habit in your child’s life, the more likely your child will experience long-term positive effects on their health.

Each day children should be active for 60 minutes, but play is one of the best ways to be involved.

Play is engaging and fun, making the activity less of a chore and more exciting.

Children won’t even realize they’re activating their muscles, strengthening their bones or building endurance when playing with their peers.

Cognitive Growth

Play can provide a considerable boost to your child’s cognitive development.

Through play, children encounter the world around them, exploring unfamiliar environments and outcomes.

Children can watch how their actions have consequences in real-time, mastering the concept of cause and effect.

Ensure you give your child ample opportunity to engage in unstructured play.

Unstructured or free play allows children to self-direct during their playtime, choosing how they want to have fun.

When you give your child the freedom to engage in unstructured play, you allow them to explore new concepts and make connections with previously learned ideas. 

Unstructured play also allows your child to grow in independence and understand how to cooperate with others.

Creative Expression

Your child’s creativity can get a significant boost through play.

Imagination is crucial to the development of children because it supports the retrieval of knowledge.

As a parent, you should do all you can to foster your child’s imagination through creative play. Here’s how:

  • Take Your Child Outside: Going outdoors to play, whether it’s in your backyard or at the local playground, can stimulate your child’s imagination and strengthen their creativity. When children go outside, they’re more likely to engage in unstructured play, which helps them develop problem-solving, language and social skills.
  • Offer More Creative Opportunities: Provide arts and crafts chances for your child to engage in at home. Allow them to express themselves and don’t always make them follow the rules while they create. Try giving your child a cardboard box, see what they imagine, and let the creativity and fun flow.

Mental Wellness

The perfect outlet for your child’s mental health is through play.

If your child feels stressed or anxious, play is a fantastic way to process their emotions healthily.

Play can also build self-confidence and increase self-esteem.

Engaging in play brings a feeling of accomplishment.

Children who join competitive sports leagues might experience this further, especially if they set goals to excel or beat personal records.

When children play with their peers or parents, they learn the crucial skill of self-regulation.

Self-regulation is the ability to express your emotions appropriately.

Rather than bottling up or lashing out, having your child use “I feel” statements to share their feelings when they lose an essential game will help them learn to process their feelings for future experiences.

Help your child by modeling “I feel” statements and self-regulation at home. 

Social Development

When play is social, children learn the building blocks of how to interact with their peers.

When engaging in activities together, children learn to compromise, negotiate and even stand up for themselves.

Children observe social cues as they listen to one another and take in each other’s perspectives.

These skills are foundational to building empathy.

Encourage your child to play these games with siblings, friends, or yourself to help them further build their empathy:

House or Act Out An Appointment: When your child turns three, they’ll be able to engage in imaginative play. Encourage them to play a game of “house” or “family” where everyone playing is assigned a role. Have them be creative–if you’re playing, make sure you’re not a parent. When your child takes on another part, they can think from another perspective, which is essential in fostering empathy.

If your child has an upcoming doctor or dentist appointment, consider acting out an appointment. This can be fun and helpful for your child. Play the scenario as close to reality as possible and let your child be the doctor or dentist first and then the patient. Hopefully, running through the scenario will alleviate your child’s concerns for their upcoming appointment.

Make Their Stuffed Animals Come to Life: Stuffed animals are an important part of any child’s life. They can also be a gateway for teaching social cues. To get started, grab one of your child’s favorite stuffed animals and ask, “can we play?” Then present a challenge your stuffed animal is facing that day, “I’m so sad that my team lost our big game today.”

Try to do so naturally and give your child a chance to respond to the social cue. They will likely comfort their stuffed animal, demonstrating empathy. 

Play for 60 Minutes a Day

Play is necessary for your child to develop into a healthy adult.

Encourage them to play independently, with friends or you, for at least 60 minutes each day.

You’ll see a huge benefit in their physical and mental health and their cognitive and social development.


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