Why You Should Encourage Your Children To Play More

The importance of play is not something that should be underestimated.

However, in our increasingly busy and digital world, many families find the amount of time dedicated to play diminishing. Even children are noticing that they are too busy for adequate playtime sessions.  

According to a recent survey by The LEGO Group, “38% of families admit they struggle to prioritise playtime due to hectic daily schedules of both parents and their children.”  

This trend is worrying as the report reveals the strong link between the number of hours given to playtime and overall family happiness.   

They report that 88% of families who play for five or more hours a week are happy, while 75% of families who play for less than that say they are happy. 

It is not only happiness that playtime has a positive effect on. According to a study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, “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.”  

Unfortunately, there are several factors that contribute to the decreasing time allotted to play. These include parents’ working hours, heightened emphasis on developmental courses and extra-circulars and the consumption of passive entertainment.  

Children are often passively entertained through television, computer games and video games. “In sharp contrast to the health benefits of active, creative play and the known developmental benefits of an appropriate level or organised activities, there is ample evidence that this passive entertainment is not protective and, in fact, has some harmful effects,” says the AAP study.  

Thankfully, it is not all bad news. Some positive side effects to children’s technological usage are emerging.  

The LEGO survey revealed that children are championing a new type of play that “blends real world, imaginary and digital experience,” or “fluid play,” as it is called. While some parents may see this as reliance on technology, to the children it is their regular method of play.  

Types of play 

There are two types of play that are instrumental to a child’s development: parent-child play and free play.  

Parent-child play is important as it increases children’s vocabulary and confidence and strengthens the parent-child bond.  

Free play, where your child isn’t following any set rules, is vital for a child’s progression. According to the AAP study, decreasing free play can “have implications on children’s ability to store new information.” 

How to encourage free play

  • Motivation  

Praise your child when you see them playing or attempting something new. This will show them that it is good to play and it will motivate them to try it again.  

  • Interact with the neighbours  

If there are other kids in your neighbourhood this is an excellent opportunity to encourage your child’s free play. Your child will interact with kids of all ages and become involved in exciting new games. This is a great way to promote sociability in later life.  

  • Restrict sedentary time 

If your child sits in front of the tv all evening they are losing out on valuable playtime, as well as hindering their physical well-being. Setting limits on screen time is a good way to ensure that your child doesn’t automatically switch to digital media as soon as they become bored.  

  • Don’t overdo the after-school activities 

While extracurricular activities are important to a child’s development and well-being, parents should ensure that they do not encroach on time that should be available for play.  

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