Importance of Play

August 22, 2011 06:12 by Kristi

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.  And it is so important!  Technically, play is open-ended, child-directed, flexible, creative and FUN!  During play, children learn how to explore, pretend, create, solve problems, get along with others, lead, follow, make friends, build, invent, make decisions, try new things, develop skills and find their passion. 
But that’s not just our opinion!  Play is so important to child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a “right” of every child.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says that play is essential to human development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of every child.  Specifically, the Academy states that:
• Play is important to healthy brain development
• Play allows children to create and explore … conquering their fears while practicing adult roles
• Play helps children develop new competencies, enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges
• Play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills
• Play allows children to practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue
• Play builds active, healthy bodies. 
Most of us do not need the Academy of Pediatrics or the United Nations to validate the importance of play.  We have all experienced the joy and benefits of play throughout our lifetimes.  However, we are facing a cultural shift in how kids play.  Many families no longer feel comfortable sending their kids out into the neighborhood to play, and most schools have cut recess and free time.  This “neighborhood time” is often substituted for technology experiences’ where climbing virtual trees replaces climbing real trees.  The type and amount of children’s play is changing fundamentally.  But benefits are delivered best through traditional, hand-on, hands-dirty play.  Let's make it a part of our everyday!