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The importance of play

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Playtime builds smart, creative, healthy kids

Want a smart, creative and healthy child? Playtime activities are vital to mental and physical development, so encourage more play for your kids!
preschooler playing with play dough

When your child is playing, a foundation for intellectual, social and emotional skills is building. Play is fun, but it is also fundamental in developing a child's brain and helping them prepare for success in school and in life. If you want to raise a smart, creative child, be sure that they have time and opportunity to play!

Advantages

Play allows kids to use their creativity and develop their imaginations, and also helps with dexterity and with physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play is important to a child's healthy brain development. It helps kids learn competencies that lead to more confidence and a better self-image, and it allows them to gain the resiliency that they'll use in future life challenges. Play can build active, healthy bodies, and less verbal children are often better able to express themselves through play. With play, kids can explore a variety of interests in a balanced way with no pressure to excel. With the academic and social pressures on children today, spontaneous play provides balance and stress relief.

The learning connection

From stacking blocks and learning letters and numbers to working a puzzle or mastering the rules of a board game, play develops reasoning and problem-solving skills. Boys are more likely to enjoy rough-and-tumble play as a way to develop social and emotional skills. They'll enjoy tackling, wrestling and jumping more than most girls. Imaginative play is vital for creativity and flexibility. Give a child a box and stand back as their creativity imagines it into a car, a house or a spaceship! Games of pretend played with siblings and friends encourage conversational skills, teach cooperation and social interaction, and have endless options for fun. This type of play should be something kids start themselves as part of a free, unstructured playtime. Parents can encourage this by giving children materials that help them create their own worlds — a stack of boxes, a few blankets or some dress-up clothes and accessories. A selection of simple props can occupy children for hours.

When a child plays with other kids of a similar age, they are learning to share and combine ideas and to cooperate and resolve conflicts. Get kids outdoors whenever possible, and let nature provide the environment for the boisterous physical activity that will help with coordination and will provide a physical challenge and healthy exercise. Roughhousing and noise are part of the kid fun! Parents should keep an eye on outdoor play for safety's sake, but do allow your child the freedom they need, and let them take risks that are appropriate for their age. The occasional scraped knee is inevitable when children play.

Make time to join in and play with your children, especially when they are trying something new. You'll help build confidence and share the delights that play provides.

Quick Tip

Use calmer play like simple crafts, drawing or reading together to settle kids down as bedtime nears.

More tips

Making playtime educational
Keeping playtime safe
Toddler boredom busters

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