THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY
Think of playtime as recess and study hall all rolled into one. Toys and games are meant to be fun, but they also serve as important teaching tools. Through play, kids learn how to interact with others and develop critical skills such as:
PHYSICAL SKILLS – GROSS AND FINE MOTOR
“Play keeps us fit physically and mentally.”
– Dr. Stuart Brown, American psychiatrist
Toys and games help children develop important physical skills right from the get-go. Every time children reach for their favorite stuffed animal, play tag, climb the jungle gym or toss a ball, they are honing their coordination, balance, and gross-motor and fine-motor skills.
Active play helps kids keep fit not only during childhood but into their adult years as well. Physically active children tend to be leaner and healthier, and studies have shown that inactive children are much more likely to be inactive in their adult years. Plus, physical play helps children use up their natural stores of energy, and promotes better eating and sleeping habits!
Safety is always priority number one, but it’s also important for children to learn to assess their own physical limitations and risks inherent in certain situations. Active play helps kids become confident and independent.
- Tag, Jump Rope, Hopscotch
- Monkey bars, Jungle gyms
- Riding bikes and scooters
CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
– Albert Einstein, German physicist
Let’s put it this way: Solving puzzle games in childhood helps prepare kids for life’s greater puzzles.
Strategy-oriented toys and games require logic and problem solving, and have been proven to strengthen children’s math and reasoning skills. Playing lots of strategy games and puzzles doesn’t just make kids better players—it makes them better thinkers! Repetition actually strengthens neural pathways, improving cognitive abilities. So play on!
- Rubix Cubes, puzzles
- Chess, checkers, card games, strategic board games
- Legos, Lincoln Logs, construction and assembly toys
“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”
– Mark Twain, American author
People communicate both verbally and through nonverbal forms of expression like body language. That means that kids have to learn to understand what people are saying — and not saying — by listening, observing, and sometimes picking up on very subtle clues.
There are many types of games that help teach children how to express themselves and interpret what others are saying: charades helps kids decipher body language and facial expressions; word-based games improve children’s vocabulary; and role-playing games can helps kids practice having conversations. Any time kids interact with others during play dates and group games, they’re honing their communication skills!
- Charades, miming
- Scrabble, Taboo, 20 Questions, word-based games
- Telephone, Capture the Flag, team strategy games
- Teddy bear picnics and tea parties, role-play games
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
– Plato, Greek philosopher
Group games and team sports are invaluable when it comes to teaching your child social skills. Through play, kids learn to follow directions, play by the rules, take turns, share and collaborate, handle disagreements, compromise, and win or lose gracefully. It’s also the perfect way to enjoy time with friends, and even make news ones!
- Monopoly, Game of Life, group board games
- Soccer, volleyball, team sports
- Human pyramid, human knot, team-building activities
“In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”
– Ovid, Roman poet
By giving kids a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride, play can help build self-esteem. Playtime is also an important outlet for children to express and regulate their emotions. Their cognitive abilities develop faster than their speech abilities, so toys and games can offer kids a way to process and communicate their feelings early on, especially when they’re dealing with challenging, stressful or frightening situations.
Play is known to have a ton of emotional benefits — which is why toys and games have been incorporated into a form of counseling known as play therapy. Toys can provide a lighthearted distraction from worries, or can even be used as tools to articulate needs, wants, wishes and feelings.
- Theatrical and musical performances, art activities
- Plush toys, dolls and action figures
- Board games and sports (with winners and losers)
CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION
“The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.”
– Carl Jung, Swiss psychoanalyst
Children spend most of their lives obeying somebody else's rules. Playtime, especially opened-ended imaginary games, lets kids create a world of their own that they have control over. It allows them to explore new possibilities, and gets their creative juices flowing.
Arts and crafts activities are another great way to encourage kids to think outside the box, explore new materials and express their sense of self. These activities aren’t necessarily about improving artistic creativity — it’s practice for coming up with innovative ideas and solutions!
- Card-making, collage, arts & crafts activities
- Dress up and role-playing games
- Puppet making and shows, skits
- Imaginary games with furniture forts, dolls and action figures