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Image: CC Flickr/Philippe Put

Why playtime is an essential part of childhood development

CC Flickr/Philippe Put

Children’s lives are overscheduled now more than ever before and all those activities are taking a bite out of their free playtime. By shortchanging playtime, children miss out on emotional, social, physical, and cognitive benefits. 

In some school districts, students have to travel more than an hour each way every day just to ride the bus to school. That takes away two hours students can use for playtime five days a week. Some research has even shown that children are spending as little as 4 hours a week playing outdoors as a result of technology and an increased school workload burden.

When they play, they learn

But by shortchanging playtime, children miss out on emotional, social, physical, and cognitive benefits. When they play, a child is working on their neurological development. Lack of playtime can also lead to negative consequences like anxiety. Anxiety and depression has been on the climb in recent decades and has severely impacted the happiness of children and has been noted as a reason for violence against others.
There are different types of play a child needs. For example, solo playtime is important to help a child explore their imagination. Playtime with other kids is equally important too as it helps with socialization and conflict resolution. With sensory play, children utilize their five senses to learn about the world and whatever they are doing at the moment. Sensory play is instinctive for children, even babies. When you see a baby putting their fingers in their mouth or picking up something to look at it and feel the texture, that’s sensory play.

This type of play involves any activity that involves sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste. There are a lot of benefits for children who explore sensory play, including allowing children to come up with their own conclusions about the world around them, it builds nerve connections within their brain, it builds up language skills and it is a way for them to learn how to problem solve.

Professor Karen Hutchison of Rowan University says: “Play is actually the work of a child in which they are preparing themselves for adult roles and society at large.” Part of promoting play means making sure information and resources regarding play are available to all relevant duty bearers and stakeholders. Below is an infographic summarizing the importance of play.

Learn more about the benefits and importance of playtime for children at Mom Loves Best

Author: Jenny Silverstone

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