Courtesy of GameTime

How Playing Keeps Your Mind Healthy

Photo Courtesy of GameTime 

Play is more than just a physical benefit for both children and adults. There are many studies that support the notion that play is great for your brain. The following are several ways that play benefits the mind.

1. Play Creates New Connections in the Brain

Play affects the connections between neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex– which is the part of the brain that controls decision-making and can also help with the ability to regulate emotions. Research also suggests that pretend play helps improve memory and helps foster abstract thought.

2. Play Improves Focus

Research has shown that kids are more focused on their schoolwork after recess (or unstructured playtime). A 2009 study from US government data on public schools found that children who had at least one daily 15-minute recess break were rated by their teachers as better behaved and less disruptive in class than kids who had little or no recess.

3. Play Reduces Stress

Because play is often physical, it reduces stress and tension as a form of exercise. But even forms of play that aren’t very physical can help relieve stress. A 2009 study found that playing casual video games for 20 minutes a day could improve mood and reduce stress.

4. Play Improves Sleep

Physical activity improves people’s sleep. One study found that 150 minutes of playtime per week (about 20 minutes a day) improves adults’ sleep performance by 65%.

5. Play Nurtures Creativity

There are two types of problems as defined by psychologists. A convergent problem has one single correct solution, whereas a divergent problem has multiple solutions. Evidence supports that play helps with solving divergent problems. This is creative problem-solving and enables players to explore new ideas, create stories, express imagination, and experiment.

6. Playing is Learning

We often think of play as an act of leisure than an actual educational experience. But it’s important to consider the following:

  • A prerequisite of learning is investigating. Most play involves exploration which is an act of investigation, so even when playtime is not directly intellectual, players can learn from observation and socialization.
  • Learning best happens when the mind perceives no barriers to gaining knowledge. Playtime doesn’t feel like the work of learning– which is how a child might feel in the classroom or how an adult feels training at work. Play enables a psychological state of learning where you’re happily immersed in what you’re doing.
  • Play is a great role play opportunity for coping with real-life challenges. Pretend play empowers children to simulate activities they will need to master as adults. Plus, this is a better context for learning because children soak in information during pretend play.

7. Play Makes You Happy

Playing is a social and physical activity that has been shown to improve mental health. Social activities have been connected to reducing symptoms of depression and regular exercise can bring stability to mood and decrease anxiety.


The science and ongoing research around play suggest that it will keep not just your body but also your mind healthy. When you consider the above, it’s clear that you need to make time for play in your daily life. There are opportunities for imaginative play all around St. Charles County– check out Fun Republic, Play Street Museum, and events at the local libraries.

Community Strong also is creating an opportunity for you to play with others in the St. Charles community. Be sure to attend the Community Strong Day of Play event on September 7, 2019, at O’Day Park. 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!