In our over-scheduled world, we often overlook the importance of play — for children and adults. Young children in particular develop important skills through play. According to a Wall Street Journal article by author of Free to Learn, Peter Gray and Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids: “Play—”free play” initiated and directed by children—is not the opposite of learning. It is learning at its most powerful, nature’s way of teaching children the big lessons they need for a happy, productive life.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers have at least 60 minutes of unstructured playtime each day.
Unstructured playtime lets children explore and understand the world around them. Sometimes even toys can be a hindrance to free play. Not that you should take all of your kids’ toys away, but encouraging them to have fun outdoors or make do with everyday items, like cardboard boxes, sparks creativity and imagination. All of this makes them better learners in the long run. Just a few of the learning benefits of play include problem solving, leadership and resilience.
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The importance of play isn’t just about developing cognitive skills, it’s also one of the best ways for children to gain social skills. Playing teaches cooperation and helps kids see things from other people’s perspective which helps them become more empathetic.
Children don’t only benefit from playing with each other either. It’s just as important for you to play with your child one-on-one. It’s a terrific way to bond and it lets kids feel loved and know that you enjoy spending time with them doing what they like to do which builds healthy self-esteem. It also helps moms get back a bit of their own playfulness. Something too many of us forget about as we get older.
Yes, adults can reap the benefits of play too. It’s a great way to de-stress, it’s fun and, according to a recent University of Zurich study, it just may help you find true love. Of course adult play is a little different than children’s. According to the study, “Playful adults are fond of wordplay, like improvising, approach a challenge lightheartedly, take pleasure in unusual things, deal with others in a playful way, enjoy teasing — and create situations in which they and others are entertained.” That does sound attractive!