Where did all the playing go?
It seems like play is being seen as less and less important these days. When in fact, in a time when a child’s access to play is becoming restricted, it’s more important than ever.
Check out these 4 benefits of play…
- Social development: Peer interactions offer the opportunity for children to navigate and negotiate social norms and develop social skills. A playground game of Tag does not just teach a child how to play Tag. It also allows him to learn the unwritten rules of the playground. Children are given the opportunity to practice communication skills, listening, and cooperation. One child tripping in his attempt to escape being tagged offers the other children the opportunity to learn nurturance and caretaking. As well as empathy by being exposed to the feelings of others. Taking turns, being chaser and chasee, allows children the opportunity to practice sharing, interacting, and negotiating conflicts.
- Emotional Development: Often times pretend play allows children to work through an event that is confusing or scary in an attempt to ultimately gain mastery over the experience. A child involved in a car accident may repeatedly reenact the accident through play. This helps the child explore feelings associated with the accident to better cope with the fear and anxiety she is experiencing.
- Cognitive Development: Opportunities to play freely help children with creative development, decision making, problem solving, language development, communication skills, abstract thinking, improved attention span and focus, and memory and recall. Building a fort with friends begins first by developing a picture in the mind of what the fort should look like. The next step is to communicate a plan of what is to be created. Gathering needed items and supplies involves creative thinking and further planning. Physically building the fort requires problem solving and communication, in addition to attention to detail and concentration. The brain can then take a snapshot of what was created, what went well, and what should be done differently next time.
- Physical Development: Let’s take a look at some of the examples above. The physical component of Tag allows children to work on gross motor skills (i.e. running, jumping). It increases coordination, flexibility and endurance; and helps them develop an understanding of, and learn more about, their bodies in relation to space. Building a fort aides in the development of a child’s fine motor skills (i.e. using their hands to hold and secure objects into place). This also improves a child’s hand eye coordination and ability to focus. Let’s not forget about the benefits of physical exercise in reducing stress and anxiety, increasing energy and improving sleep to name a few.
One key thing for adults to keep in mind while providing a child with the opportunity for free play, in the absence of any safety concerns, is to allow the child to direct the play. This means even when she is struggling. Working through frustration, struggle, and disappointment while accomplishing a task allows the child to experience these strong emotions. In turn, she becomes better able to handle them. When she is given the chance to independently see a task through to completion, she shows herself she is able to achieve success. This increases her feelings of competency, confidence and self esteem.
But all this being said, play isn’t just for kids. Adults can get the same benefits too!
Now that you know this, step away from the screen and go play!
Landreth, G. Play Therapy: The Art of The Relationship. 2nd Ed.
Was this helpful? Email me your thoughts and experiences trying this technique at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extend beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or email@example.com
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jenniemazzajones.com