Play is Good for All of Us

Parents Giving Children Ride In WheelbarrowOriginally this post was going to be about why play is so good for children and then I realized play is good for ALL of us, so it should include adults too. You know the saying, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.  I think it can be expanded to ‘All work and no play makes all of us dull and cranky.’

But let’s start at the beginning, why was I researching why play was good for children?  It seems a little ridiculous.  Children play, so let them play and be done with it.  Well, it wasn’t quite so simple when my son was a little boy. He was completely left-brained, so he was very literal, thrived on rules and structure, and did not want to explore or be open-ended with anything.  So, I started looking into how to develop the right-side of his brain and viola, play was one of the most perfect activities.   So, the play journey began.

Reading Vivian Gussin Paley, A Child’s Work; The Importance of Fantasy Play is interesting as it illustrates the importance through activities the children explore, so it is very inviting and accessible, especially to a mother of a child who was very uncomfortable even thinking of engaging in fantasy play.   According to the author, ‘fantasy or imaginative play helps a child with cognitive, narrative and social connectivity of a child.’  This type of play encourages engagement with other children, helps children feel safe in their environment and develops confidence in children to navigate their world.  Imaginary play is the foundation that spurs creativity, intellectual and emotional growth.

There are many types of play. There is active, cooperative, creative, imaginative or fantasy, manipulative and quiet play.  Every type of play is important and spans activities such as; kick ball, board games, painting, play acting, crafts, and working on puzzles.

Play is a child’s work and this work helps develop muscle strength and coordination, self-regulation, creativity, social connectivity, dexterity and mental acuity.

What does play do for adults?

Play helps to reduce stress, increases happiness, fosters creativity and learning, and can help in reconnecting us to others and our environment.

What can we do to encourage play for our children?

Firstly, we can limit our children’s schedules.   We can say ‘no’ to having activities after school every day.  We can tell our children that one sport every season is enough and that just because ‘Jimmy is doing it’ doesn’t mean he has to as well.

Secondly, we can set the stage for play.  Having other children over to our homes when there is no one available in the neighborhood and making them go outside and PLAY, unless the weather is ferocious, is setting the stage beautifully.  For younger children, having dirt and water available seems to provide hours of outdoor fun.  It literally is add child, dirt & water and watch the fun.  (Clean up is not so bad, mud dries and flakes right off.)

Thirdly, we can just let go and have fun ourselves.  We can stop thinking of the dishes in the sink, the laundry to be folded and the calls to return.  We can disengage from our mental to-do lists, really look at our children and say; ‘Yes, I would love to play with you right now. Let’s go have some fun.’

Lastly, we can be role models for play.  We can allow ourselves the time and resource to play ourselves and show our children just how important play is for all of us.