The American Academy of Paediatrics recently published a statement on the importance of play – and we could not agree more.
Safe and nurturing relationships and developmentally appropriate play activities are probably the most important factors for the development of essential life skills. Today’s society is often very focused on structured activities to promote academic results, but these activities are often introduced very early in the child’s life in the preschool years, unfortunately at the cost of less playful learning opportunities. Introducing academic skills at a very young age has not been shown to provide any academic advantage in later years. On the other hand, learning social skills through play enables children to develop the necessary life skills needed throughout life.
What is play? Play can loosely be defined as voluntary, fun activities with no external goals. Play can be
with objects, rough and tumble physical play, pretend or social play and outside play, to name a few. Play allows children to develop life skills while buffering them from real life consequences. Play activities stars at a very young age when babies start smiling in a social way. The back-and-forth verbal games lay down the foundation for more complex reciprocal interactions later in life. Play develops further and becomes more complex as the child progresses through the different developmental stages of childhood.
Play is also needed for brain development and leads to changes at molecular, cellular and functional levels. The beneficial effects can be seen with improvement in executive functioning, language, early math skills, social development, peer relations and physical development and health. The opposite is also likely true with increasing prevalence of ADHD-type disorders in children that are play deprived.
Adults can also benefit from play activities. Playing with your child strengthens the bond, improves communication and understanding between parent and child and reduces parental stress. Seeing the world from our children’s eyes can bring back the joy of our own childhood experiences.
Thus, our advice would be to put down the phones, switch of the TV’s and computers and let your childhood imagination run wild!
If you would like more information, please have a look at the original publication at this link: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3/e20182058