Now that the kids are out of school, remember that play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play as a family weaves the ties of love and connection that bind family members together. Make sure your child gets plenty of play time with their child care provider too.
- Play is needed for healthy brain development. 75 percent of the brain develops after a baby is born, in the years between birth and the early 20s. Childhood play stimulates the brain to make connections between nerve cells. This is what helps a child develop both gross motor skills (walking, running, jumping, coordination) and fine motor skills (writing, manipulating small tools, detailed hand work).
- Pretend play stimulates your child’s imagination and creativity. Studies have shown that kids who are encouraged to use their imagination are more creative in their adult lives. Although artistic expression certainly is important, creativity isn’t limited to the arts. Creativity also helps people find new and innovative ways to do things and to invent new products that make our lives more productive, easier, or more entertaining.
- Play develops the brain’s executive function. Executive function refers to the mental skills that allow us to manage time and attention, to plan and organize, to remember details, and to decide what is and isn’t appropriate to say and do in a given situation. It’s also what helps growing children learn to master their emotions and to use past experiences to understand what to do in the present. These are the skills that are central to self-control and self-discipline.
- Play develops a child’s “theory of mind.” Theory of mind” is the ability to walk in another’s shoes. Kids who play lots of “let’s pretend” learn to figure out what their various characters would think about and do. Engaging in pretend games with others requires understanding playmates’ thoughts and feelings. A well-developed theory of mind increases a child’s tolerance and compassion for other people and increases their ability to play and work well with others.
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