At your child’s next check-up, don’t be surprised if your pediatrician recommends a healthy dose of play. Beyond the typical preventive care strategies for healthy child development, more pediatricians are recognizing play’s multifaceted benefits.
Play is fundamentally important for developing 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, according to a recent clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends play for children to buffer toxic stress, build parental relationships and improve executive functioning.
To help ensure your kids get their daily dose of play, The Genius of Play is offering these fun ideas you can do together as a family.
Take me – “in” – to the ball game: With the long tube from a roll of wrapping paper as a bat and a balloon as a ball, you can safely play “baseball” indoors. Simply designate four pieces of furniture or other markers as bases and you’re ready to go. A great game for kids 4 years and up, it’s also a useful way to build cognitive skills, improve hand-eye coordination and, most importantly, have fun indoors. Is the sun shining? Take the fun to the backyard, with a real T-ball or softball set and use trees, bird houses and other markers as bases.
Worlds of imagination: Kids are not yet able to express their emotions as adults would. But when they create imaginary scenarios during play, they can act out their current emotional states, which in turn helps them learn to express and regulate their feelings. Through the use of toys such as dolls, action figures and playsets, children are able to express emotions like fear, frustration, anger or aggression, in situations they control, as well as build empathy and understanding.
It’s no cake walk: Get some exercise while building social skills. Show children how to walk like crabs: hands and feet on the floor, stomach facing up. See if they can balance something on their stomachs, such as a bag of beans, while they move. To make it competitive, have everyone race to a marked finish line. Or, organize a relay race to encourage teamwork and cooperation.
Puzzle it out: Brain-teasers, puzzles and strategy-based games are not just good old-fashioned fun, they strengthen critical thinking skills by facilitating a child’s ability to strategize and focus. From jigsaw puzzles to fast-paced board games with buzzers and egg timers, such types of play sharpen children’s planning skills and lengthen their attention spans. And, when children are faced with a problem during play, the situation can test their reasoning and judgment — and ability to find a solution.
For more play ideas as well as information about the benefits of play, visit TheGeniusofPlay.org.
This summer, make life more fun by celebrating play and encouraging more of it. Your kids will be happier and healthier if they get their daily dose of play alongside other activities.