Summertime means more time for play! Now that school is out and life seems to be returning to normal, kids are able to go outside and play again. This is important because play is essential to a child’s development. Here are five ways play supports a well-rounded child:
- Physical well-being: Outdoor play builds strength, coordination and motor skills. Not only does it make children stronger, but gross motor exercises such as running, jumping and climbing are often regulating and calming for many children. Plus, when a child is active that means they are spending their natural energy which promotes better eating and sleep.
- Emotional development: During play, children can explore feelings through storytelling and learn how to cope with big emotions through a situation they can control. Free play, or unstructured play time, allows children to fully express themselves without interference from others.
- Social skills: When kids play with other children, they learn how to compromise, exchange ideas, navigate group dynamics, and take turns. Children build up their empathy skills by paying attention to social cues and by listening to their peers.
- Communication skills: Through play, kids have an opportunity to practice their language skills by sharing their thoughts, feelings and ideas. They communicate in other ways through writing, signals and gestures.
- Releases stress: Free play is a great way for children to let off steam. Free play has been shown to benefit children who are emotionally distressed from trauma. Children release emotions when they “play out” or “act out” their trauma or stress.
After the challenging year kids had from being stuck indoors and on screens, it’s important to encourage your child to get outside and play. Playing isn’t just about fun and games. It’s an essential tool in their development and it’s an opportunity for them to learn about themselves and the world around them.
Christine Holmberg, LMFT