More than Fun and Games
March 23, 2020
Beth Garrett, MD
All areas of a child’s life improve with increase access to free play.
In the last decade, the time children spend in active play (i.e. play that does not involve screen time) has decreased. This is problematic because while play may seem like fun and games to adults, it is actually crucial to a child’s development.
All areas of a child’s life improve with increase access to free play. From infancy through adolescence, play improves children’s abilities to handle toxic stress in their lives. The joy of playing, along with the interaction with parents and/or peers, helps manage the body’s stress response.
Play also helps improve children’s social skills and problem-solving skills by providing opportunities to interact, negotiate and develop language skills. Kids who engage more in more free play do better in the classroom, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children who engaged in active hour for even one hour per day were able to think more creatively and multitask better.
Of course, there are also physical benefits to play. The exercise involved in play promotes core strength and balance, healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness. Just as importantly, it enhances the immune system, decreases depression and increases motor skills.
Parents can help their kids get more playtime by:
- Get the kids outdoors. Enjoy time outside together.
- Put the screens down. Try having a designated place to put the screens when everyone gets home and spend time together rather than on your phones.
- Use low-tech, simple toys. Even a box can be a great toy for a young child. Simple toys like puzzles, blocks and books also increase creativity.
- Get together with family and friends. Adults can relax and watch the kids while the children play together.
For additional ideas about how to integrate more playtime in your child’s life, visit healthychildren.org.