Why is Play Important for Children?
The age of TVs, computers and iPads, combined with parents’ hesitance to let children play outside alone, means that many children are engaging in creative play far less than they did in the last century. But what does this mean for kids today?
According to David Elkind, PhD, play is a fundamental mode of learning for young children, and parents should strive to ensure their children have ample time to get caught up in their own little worlds.
Making mud pies, creating a castle with legos, pretending the couch is a ship and sailing across the sea—these fanciful games do more than simply keep kids entertained. Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play, says, “…Play arises from areas of the ‘ancient’ brain…that are organized for survival, and they flow ‘upward’ into higher centers, activating interaction with the environment.” He goes on to say that our hands are inextricably connected with our brains, and are a primary way we interact with the world. What this means is that when kids play with blocks or throw balls, “they are fertilizing neural growth and integrating complex areas that the natural world offers.”
Not only does play teach children about the natural world around them, but it teaches kids about themselves and others too. Who knew a board game could teach children self-awareness, mutual respect, and how to read body language and vocal intonations?
To end with the wise words of Dr. Elkind, “When we appreciate the important role play serves in a child’s learning about self and world, we give children the time and opportunity to engage in the self-initiated play that is the surest way for them to fully realize all of their intellectual, emotional and social potential.”
To read Dr. Elkind’s enlightening pamphlet entitled “The Wisdom of Play,” please click HERE.
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