Nowadays we can see a strong emphasis on the Importance of Play in promoting “Healthy Child Development”. Just like fitness and its endless benefits, playtime has become an essential element in today’s kids daily routine. Lets say a part of their healthy lifestyle regime that not only provides entertainment but also promotes health and well being by contributing positively to children’s cognitive, motor, and social & emotional skills.
Below are some of the fantastic benefits of play:
- Cognitive Skills: Playing develops brain skills such as awareness, perception, reasoning, judgment, thinking, classifying, planning and problem solving. Important skills that kids need in their daily lives.
- Motor Skills: Through play kids develop both gross and fine motor skills. When kicking a ball or pushing a toy cart or jumping kids utilize large muscle groups, on the other hand when kids are drawing, writing or practicing arts and crafts using their fingers they develop fine motor skills, these skills are related to smaller muscle groups like muscles in fingers, wrists and hands. Furthermore, the act of throwing and receiving a ball as an example builds hand-eye coordination skill in kids.
- Social & Emotional Skills: When playing children learn more about themselves and the world around them, they start adapting skills like self-confidence, self-expression and self-reliance. When playing with others whether friends or parents kids learn to negotiate, cooperate, wait, take turns, compromise, share and express emotions.
- Language Skills: Through play and positive interaction kids learn how to talk, sing and use language forms differently to get results. Moreover, kids can learn a new language while playing with friends in a safe and healthy environment.
Other benefits of play reside in helping kids build friendship and connections, improving their creativity levels, and enhancing parent-child bonding.
While all the above benefits demonstrate the importance, value and power of play, we can still see the time for play reduced for some kids at both home and school level, and the main reason behind this reduction lies in what is called “Challenges of Play”, example of these challenges are:
- Busy and fast lifestyle of parents
- Schools and parents’ interests in filling kids' time with academic enrichment and physical activities that support children to excel in the best means and start preparing for their future at earlier age (A heavily marketed trend which makes parents feel it’s a necessity for good parenting)
- Limited resources of play for kids living in poverty
Focusing on challenge #2, it’s great to build kids and enrich their minds at a young age, nevertheless, its crucial to understand that giving very little time for kids to play (openly, freely, without a programmed set of activities) can have a negative consequences on them causing anxiety, pressure and stress. So the idea here is to balance between kids’ enrichment activities and future preparations and between enjoying the present moment through free exploratory play and parent-child bonding activities. Some wonderful initiatives have been taken to create awareness on the importance of play, The Genius of Play is a great example brought by TIA (Toy Industry Association) to celebrate the many proven benefits of play and to encourage parents and caregivers to make play an important part of a child’s day!
Spotting the light on challenge #3, again multiple organizations have taken positive steps to provide play to those in need or to support charities providing the same. Toy Industry Foundation is a brilliant example, which aims to bring joy, comfort, and learning to children in need through toys and play.
Another fantastic program in USA is KaBOOM (founded by Darell Hammond) which is dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. KaBOOM creates great places to play, inspires communities to promote and support play, and works to drive the national discussion about the importance of play in fostering healthy lives and communities. Till now KaBOOM has served more than 7.4 million children and has managed to build, open and improve 16,000 playgrounds turning all spaces into transformative theaters of activity, inspiration, and discovery and in the process to change minds and habits.
A photo for Lighthouse field playground built in Philadelphia, PA
It’s really brilliant to see how companies and organizations work hard to create awareness on the benefits of play and support those in need to provide them with healthy and balanced childhood environment.
I think we all have the opportunity both as individuals and groups like organizations, associations, toy companies, manufacturers, distributers and retailers to make a difference using our resources and to contribute positively in supporting a healthy childhood development for our kids.
So today lets commit to make a difference, leave a footprint and enhance kids' lives through the most fun packed power we have got, The Power of Play!