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Why Playtime is Important to Your Child’s Development

Sue Riedl

Sue Riedl

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Trained chef and food journalist

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Playing is not just fun and leisure for children. It’s a form of learning and an opportunity for kids to practice active leadership and decision making, in addition to helping them build confidence.

Play allows children to act out real world situations. If something is bothering them, they can work it out in a safe, imaginary situation. Parents can also make up a fun game about why a child needs to have a needle, or children can use their toys and stuffed animals as “protection” if something is frightening them.

No matter their age, playing a game teaches kids to problem solve and introduces them to the idea that in life there are rules that need to be followed. Playing also allows kids to absorb information on their own instead of learning only what they are taught in a school environment.

There are various kinds of play. Social play is when kids engage with each other and learn to share, cooperate, negotiate and develop language skills. This can be anything from doing crafts to playing with Lego or going down a slide.

Physical play allows kids to get active and helps develop motor skills. It also gets kids, who are more sedentary these days, to get used to be being active on a regular basis. This can help prevent overweightness and obesity.

Constructive play has to do with being creative by manipulating the environment and can involve building sand castles, doing wood working projects (for older kids), creating chalk murals or making music.

Games with rules, such as sports, card games or board games, emphasize the importance of following instructions and the necessity of having structure to function in society with other people.

At younger ages, kids need stimulating motor activities that help develop muscle strength and overall integration of brain functions, nerves and muscles. This is also when sharing and playing together is important so children can prepare to function properly in an adult world. Setting up playdates or heading to a popular park can test social and physical skills.

Older kids can play advanced board games or participate more seriously in sports. Sports will promote fitness and help build leadership skills, trust and self-discipline. It can also help kids think critically and solve problems. Being on a losing team doesn’t feel great, but it teaches a lesson about perseverance.

Play helps children of any age to push boundaries, develop their personality, make mistakes and take risks in a safe environment.

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