Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Play: to engage in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than for a serious or practical purpose.
Is it just me, or do student's seem to have more and more homework at a younger and younger age? Over the last decade, there has been a major shift in the amount of play at school and at home because of an increased focus on academics. This shift has resulted in children feeling increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression in addition to a decrease in motor skills and overall health. Let me put this out there, I'm not against academics. I value a good education, but I also strongly believe in the importance of incorporating play into our children's lives.
Okay, switch gears for a second. Let's talk about brain development.
Research shows that 75% of the brain is developed after a child is born. As the brain is stimulated, it makes connections between the nerve cells. The more connections between the nerve cells there are, the more stimulation is given to the brain. Thus the more the brain is stimulated, ultimately the more the brain is developed. So what do play and brain development have to do with each other? Well, surprise surprise, play provides the majority of the stimulation the brain receives to develop.
So, play is important. How important? Take a look at these specific skills developed when engaged in play:
Fine and gross motor skills
Would you have guessed play was that powerful?! If you said yes, pat yourself on the back, but for everyone else- you are probably wondering how to get more play into your child's daily routine, right? Great! Here are four ways to facilitate play with your children to make sure they are getting the chance to develop:
Provide ample unstructured & unplanned time to play and think creatively. This could look like giving your child a box full of craft supplies and giving them 30 minutes to work on whatever craft they can think of. Or you could give them an hour to make a fort, or challenge them to crate a story with their legos. The key is spontaneity.
Provide time for active play. When I say active play, I'm talking about muscle work and movement. Some examples of muscle work are running, jumping, climbing, throwing.. Some examples of movement are swinging, dancing, and stretching.
Praise your child for trying, not necessarily for success.
Encourage thinking, trying, and experiencing.
Luckily for us as parents or teachers, there is not a wrong way to play! Don't let a lack of tools, space, or a busy schedule keep you from making time for your child to play. Just go for it! Where ever you are, whatever supplies you have, I am confident your child will be able to use their imagination. I'd love to see how you and your child play, so if you are into using hashtags, use #movingforsuccess ooooor you can tag us @childreninmotion on Facebook and @children.in.motion on Instagram. Let's see what you come up with!