On-location photography of the Scotts Ridge Playgrounds in Apex, NC.

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The Benefits of Play

Photo Courtesy of GameTime Gametime.com 

Play is a word we often associate with children having fun. It’s happy, it’s carefree, and sometimes it’s silly. But there’s much more going on than just fun. It’s more than just a leisure activity. Research shows that play gives kids many valuable benefits that are essential to human development.

The following are benefits of play that everyone should know:

Physical

Play helps kids to be physically fit and healthy––

  • Play trains reflexes and movement control
  • It develops motor skills
  • It develops stronger muscles
  • It increases flexibility
  • It improves balancing skills and coordination
  • It improves bone density
  • It improves heart and lung function
  • It prevents obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol

In a society where both children and parents aren’t getting enough physical activity, parents can set an example by making changes for healthier habits and a more active lifestyle that includes lots of play. Playing with your children is great for both of you.

Social

Kids love playing for many reasons, but one of the main reasons they look forward to it is because it gives them an opportunity to spend time with friends or family, meet new peers, and engage in games they might not be able to play at home or school.

Play helps children to socialize and learn relationship-building skills, as well as important life lessons about social norms and independence. Here are some other social benefits to play:

  • Helps teach social cues, social roles, and cultural rules
  • Helps develop cooperation skills
  • Helps children learn self-control and negotiation skills
  • Prepares children for a lifetime of interacting with others
  • Allows space for children to congregate and communicate
  • Gives children social skills and life lessons that are vital to their maturation

Emotional

You can see both the physical and social benefits to play, but what’s harder to observe are the emotional benefits. Play helps with emotional growth by:

  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Experimenting with various emotions
  • Releasing emotions from trauma
  • Teaching self-regulation

Research shows that children use play to express their emotions and learn to deal with their fears. By engaging imagination, play enables children to experience different feelings and outcomes that they may not experience in their everyday realities.

Additionally, play has proven to be therapeutic for children who are emotionally distressed from traumatic circumstances such as child abuse, family turbulence, or larger experiences such as devastation from war or natural disasters. Children can actually release emotions and play out their traumas, thus freely sharing their feelings.

Cognitive

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” –Fred Rogers

Studies show that play determines how the neural circuits of the brain are wired. It helps children to construct knowledge and learn how to articulate. Play is hands-on learning. We have become the adults we are today partially due to free play. Studies show that playing enhances children’s adjustment, language, social, and emotional stability by 33% to 67%.

Some of the other cognitive benefits to play include:

  • Helping develop language and reasoning skills
  • Developing focus and problem-solving skills
  • Developing judgment
  • Developing creativity
  • Teaching children about consequences and risk– which leads to better decision-making

All of the above skills are necessary for being a well-adjusted adult. So you simply cannot talk about play without talking about cognitive development!

Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence

While playgrounds and play areas have equipment that present physical challenges, allowing children to play freely allows them to take risks in overcoming those challenges. When they do overcome a challenge, they feel a sense of accomplishment which raises their self-esteem.

Through imaginative play, children can become confident through:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Learning to play on their own
  • Positive social interaction

Conclusion

Play is not only a fun activity that children enjoy to fill time, but it’s integral to human development. Play has numerous benefits– physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and self-esteem/self-confidence –and these benefits make for a great argument to include play in your everyday life.

Come enjoy a Day of Play on September 7, 2019, at O’Day Park on behalf of Community Strong St. Charles County. This free event will feature family-friendly games, live music for dancing, wellness education, and healthy food trucks to celebrate how we can all move one step closer to a healthier life through a playful mindset.

Sign up to Play here! We hope to see you!