The Benefits of Play
Lots of extra lessons, team sports, learning languages. More than a half of children participate in structured extracurricular activities after school, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and it’s no different in many other parts of the world. While these activities help kids learn valuable skills and have lots of positive influence on their development, the good old play is equally, if not more, important.
Playing is engaging, doesn’t require extra motivation and helps in improving tens of everyday skills. Learning through playing opens minds in ways that regular studying often does not allow, promotes experimentation and combines theory with practice. No matter if it’s roleplaying, drawing pictures with other kids, making cardboard houses or playing board games – it’s often worth spending time on. Recent studies by neuroscientists show that kids who play more, develop faster and do better at school. What benefits can your children or students gain from playing?
Studying through play is one of the best methods of learning. Children who do this a lot start realizing that the world itself is the best source for new information. Play makes them absorbed and fully focused on what they’re interacting with.
When collecting autumn leaves they get some early biology knowledge. Playing with sand and water, when building tiny castles and digging moats around them on summer vacations, grants valuable experiences with physics. Same with chemistry and fun experiments like rubber eggs, growing colorful salt crystals and exploding balloons attached to bottles with water and baking soda. These are not only fun and surprising but also demonstrate elementary science knowledge that will be priceless during lessons at school.
Play can be used to teach counting and numbers but works equally well with seemingly advanced topics such as coding. Hundreds of games and devices like programmable robots can teach kids about basics of what feels like complex topics topics through fun, little games.
All these activities can also be used at school. If you’re a teacher, don’t hesitate to add elements of play to your lesson plans for elementary classes. These teaching strategies will make your class ignore distractions and have more positive attitude towards studying.
Children also pay more attention to traditional classes if the are given the opportunity to play in regular intervals. That’s why schools use 15 minute long breaks between lessons.
Imagination and Creativity
Play helps children become more creative. Just look at the greatest and beloved classic toy – the building blocks. Whichever brand you prefer, these always encourage creating something big and new while deciding how each step of that creation is going to play out. Sandboxes do a similar job, same with all kinds of play based on artistic activities – painting, drawing, playing with dough, making up songs or even creating potato seals. Even such basic ways of playing can help them get better at creative problem solving later on.
And let’s not forget about the pretend play. Children act out scenes and pretend they’re pirates, adventurers or astronauts exploring faraway planets. A set of chairs can become their spaceship and soon they will be thinking about being somewhere else, imagining abstract situations – an ability that is priceless at school, university and while working your job in adult life.
Play is one of key activities when you want your kids stay healthy. Many ways of playing require them to move around, thus making them more physically active, have better stamina and be less likely to deal with obesity problems later in their lives.
Playing also improves mental health. Kids often need a way to let off steam and nothing works better than few hours of engaging, active fun. They also, just like adults, are prone to become stressed or even depressed in today’s world. Playing takes their minds of these thoughts and makes them feel good about themselves, while also developing emotional skills.
Understanding how social relations work and how to interact with other people is one of the most important things to learn when you’re younger. Figuring out how to cooperate with others at that age, becomes priceless in school and in future life.
Playing encourages all participants to communicate and shows how many verbal and non-verbal methods of interaction exist. Kids can also realize what possible scenarios of interacting with others are out there and how they can unfold.
Playing often leads to creating new, longtime friendships and teaches to appreciate others, while building empathy towards people. Play is often the best way to understand how important it is, and works much better than lectures and wordy theory.
Children who try different games, activities and role plays are usually quicker at figuring out what they love doing the most and what they’re really good at. Even if a majority of their friends enjoy sports, they can find hidden love for chemistry experiments, playing musical instruments or coding. This way they can find their passions early on and explore something, that may be their lifelong hobby, a way to relieve stress in adult life or even a full time job.