Tammy Gold is a parenting & education expert and a co-founder of MommyCoach. She is also a mother of three. In addition to being a licensed therapist, certified coach, and a childcare and parenting expert, Tammy has been helping parents live happier lives for over ten years.
Most parents are not aware, but during a trip to the park, while on a play date, or at Kidville your children are having an immense educational experience. Playing is a powerful education tool for children and helps to advance their social, emotional and cognitive growth. Playing is how children learn about themselves and their environment.
A parent can see early learning through play when a baby grasps a rattle and begins to shake it. For young children learning is done through all 5 senses: touching, tasting, hearing, seeing and smelling. These play interactions can have profound benefits starting in infancy and continuing through young adulthood. As the American Academy of Pediatrics explains “play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.”
The two main types of play are free play and adult structured play. According to the Early Childhood Education Journal in 2007 both types of play not only teach children about other peoples feelings, but also how to balance their own feelings as well. These types of emotional lessons are extremely beneficial to a child’s emotional health.
Playtime also has great health benefits for children. In a time filled with TVs, IPADs, and video games, play time allows children to get the crucial exercise they need to stay physically fit. In fact The American Heart Association recommends children get at least an hour a day of physical activity. In addition to health benefits, playing also allows children to blow off steam, this is especially helpful for the toddler years when children are confined in strollers, highchairs and car seats which can increase frustrations. When I work with families I often recommend toddlers who are prone to tantrums to have 2 hours of morning playtime and 2 hours of afternoon playtime. These added hours of play have a dramatic affect of decreasing tantrums and increasing sleep and happiness.
Playtime also helps children socially. During structured and free play time children learn how to take turns, share, role-play and work with a group of people. Playing with children really allows children to grow socially and understand the thoughts and feelings of the other children with whom they are playing. When a child is starting a new school or camp having a play date with another student will allow for easier parental separation and greater comfort since the children have already bonded through play.
Perhaps most importantly, playtime is a wonderful way for parents to bond with their children. In my five pillars of positive parenting I refer to: Touch, Talk, Sing, Smile and Play. Playing allows parents and children to bond on neutral ground and a more relaxed environment. Playing also helps parents and children de-stress and make the most of their time together no matter how big or small. A quick trip to the park or indoor music class creates a wonderful memory for both parent and child.
Whether socially, emotionally, educationally or physically, playing greatly benefits the lives of children. Though schedules can become quite busy every family should make the time to connect, play and enjoy each other.