The Importance of Play

As summertime approaches, it might be tempting to enroll your child in a variety of events to keep him/her busy while not in school.  While extra curricular activities certainly can benefit your child and be very fun for him/her, too many activities can be overwhelming.  Having a jam packed schedule can leave your child without any free time to just play.  So, with summer quickly approaching, I wanted to remind everyone of a few of the benefits of play.

Creativity. When children are given time for free play, they create play scenarios, imagine a new world, and turn common objects into magical props.  Their creativity and imagination can take them anywhere!

Social development. During free play, children interact with one another in a variety of ways.  They may need to cooperate to help a friend in need, determine who will “play” the pilot and who will “play” the passenger, solve a disagreement, or tend to a crying “baby” doll.  All of these scenarios help them learn how to communicate and cooperate with one another.

Physical development. Especially outside in the summer, free play gives children a chance to develop their gross (running, jumping, throwing) and fine (finger painting, tying shoes, coloring) motor skills.  It also helps to keep them active and healthy!

An escape. Let’s face it, the world is a busy, stressful place.  Whether it’s a big soccer game, a bully at school, a math exam, or troubles at home, life can be stressful and serious for children of all ages.  Play gives them a chance to escape reality, and just have fun being a kid for a while.

Have you noticed a difference in children when they’re overbooked?  How does it affect their energy level?  Their mood?  Their relationships?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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