Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. – Fred Rogers
It’s been said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. I’ve often wondered why that is. Is it because play is the place where dreams are born? Or perhaps because through play, the world can expand into an infinite place? Honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is but I do know that watching my children play convinces me that there are dreams to be dreamed and good to be done by them. As they conquer obstacles and find ways to reach new heights, it’s easy for me to imagine a world of tomorrow where they can accomplish great things. It’s easy to see that dreaming and exploring and achieving matters. It’s easy to see the benefits of play for children.
For my boys, play is more than just a fun way to spend the afternoon. Ever since my oldest could walk, I can think back on days spent at the playground, discovering and learning. Through the years, as I’ve watched them both grow, I’ve discovered that while playing is an awesome way to spend the day, it’s also so much more! And more importantly, I’ve learned that playgrounds are a place for play and learning; a place where children can develop skills in areas like leadership, teamwork and perseverance. It’s a place where they build valuable social relationships but more importantly, where they build life skills.
Play Builds Confidence
When I first became a mom, I never really though of play as a way to help build confidence in my children. I thought of it more as a way to simply pass time. But all it takes is watching my youngest conquer the monkey bars without falling to see that while I may think he’s just playing, in reality he’s building the confidence to go after his dreams and chase goals that may seem bigger than he is when looking at them from below.
I’ve watched him eye obstacles as he calculates how to overcome them in his mind and I’ve been thrilled to see him shrug, run off with confidence and conquer things that I as an adult might even be scared to try. It’s the exuberance and confidence that he can achieve anything that he puts his mind to that play builds in him.
As a mom, that’s an amazing thing to see….one which convinces me that while play is fun it is also the work of childhood that helps turn brave children into confident adults.
Play Contributes to Cooperation and Leadership
It’s funny how children are born wanting things their way and their way alone. We as parent spend those first few years trying to teach skills like sharing and compromise. And then a child steps onto a playground with other children their age and all of a sudden, the skills we’ve tried so hard to put into words are acted out in front of us. Children who don’t share begin to learn to take turns. Children who “do it by myself” have to work with other children to make the see-saw work.
We quickly begin to see that social skills like cooperating with others and even basic leadership skills begin on the playground. While to my son, it’s all play, I’m able to see him begin to develop the skills that will help him succeed at life. I’m able to watch him learn to interact with others to solve conflicts and come up with solutions. And most importantly, I’m able to see him take turns exerting a leadership role with his friends.
It’s done in such a healthy way that I often think us adults could benefit from a lesson in play….where the end goal is simply having fun together and small differences are forgotten in persuit of the greater good.
Play Exercises Their Body and Mind
While play builds confidence and helps develop cooperation and leadership in my son, it’s also important to remember that play is good for both the body and the mind. Physically, play helps to develop strong muscles and build healthy habits for life.
Mentally, play is a way to dream bigger, flexing imaginations just as they flex their muscles. I know that when my son is on a playground, he’s doing so much more than just sliding down slides and jumping off balance beams. He’s growing. And thriving. And in a world that can often seem at odds, his play is a time when I know that he’s developing and building his way into a confident little person one adventure at a time.
I can’t stress enough what a huge role play has in my children’s lives. For me, the three important benefits of play that I’ve listed are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reasons why my children play. While I’ve always know that play is important, now I’m seeing just how right I have been. You see, Landscape Structures (that’s the type of playground you see my little guy having so much fun on) has partnered with University of Minnesota’s Institute of Childhood Development to research how play helps develop the whole child by creating leaders, encouraging collaboration and teaching about the values of persistence of problem solving. Instead of simply seeing play as a way to pass time, they are really looking more at how Landscape Structures’ playground can benefit people of all ages and abilities. They believe, like I do, that for a better tomorrow, we play today. Just watch the video below to see what I mean and get a peek into a new way to look at how playing today can make for a great tomorrow!
Now that you know why play matters, it’s time to head outdoors and bring all the benefits of the magic of play into your child’s life! To get started, click HERE to find a Landscape Structures playground near you.
Then find ways to help your child slide, swing, jump and play their way to a better tomorrow!
Then tell me, why is play important for your children?