Despite the pressure that parents often feel to schedule their children’s every activity, it is important not to over-schedule your child. Make sure you are leaving your child with enough free time to encourage good, old-fashioned play. Research has shown that that play is essential to a child’s development. Play contributes to the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical well-being of children. Leaving your child with unstructured time to play in whatever way he or she chooses offers all of the following benefits:
- Play encourages a child’s creativity and imagination — they make up their own games and create their own imaginary world. Creativity and imagination are an important part of brain development.
- Play allows an opportunity for a child to work out his or her feelings, fears, and frustrations about things. For example, a child can address fears at school by playing the role of teacher and helping her “students”.
- Play helps children learn, as they engage and interact with the world around them.
- Play builds self-esteem. As children master their play world, they gain the confidence to face other challenges in the real world.
- Play encourages children to develop social skills, as they interact with inanimate objects, and later, other children. They learn to share, negotiate, and empathize with others.
- Play allows children to discover what their interests are and what they enjoy. Eventually, they may discover passions they wish to pursue.
- Play builds active, healthy bodies and increases physical activity levels in children.
- When parents play with their children, parents and children learn to communicate better with one another and build their parent-child relationship.
- Play helps children with language development. As children talk repeatedly during play, they enhance their language skills through repetition of words.
- Play is also important simply because it is how children experience fun and joy that should be a cherished part of childhood!
Don’t let play get lost amidst the business of school and other structured activities. A child whose every moment is scheduled loses out on all of the ways that play contributes to development.