Have you ever wondered if your kids play enough? The answer is probably not. The world is changing rapidly and so is the way we raise our children. It often seems unsafe to play outside, or it’s just easier to watch TV. Regardless of what’s going on in the world around us, we need to remember how important it is to let our children play (and play with them, sometimes). Playtime has a lot of benefits for your toddler. Numerous studies have been completed detailing how play can stimulate a child’s growth in several areas. At the age of a toddler, the brain has a lot of learning to do. By allowing your toddler to engage in fun, meaningful activities, you are ensuring a healthy foundation for adulthood.
How Can Playing Be Beneficial?
When children play, their knowledge of the world around them is expanded by combining real-world experiences with their imagination. This could be playing house and pretend cooking, hide-and-seek, building with blocks, or even drawing. Playing hide-and-seek (or peek-a-boo) reinforces the idea that even though you disappear for a second, you always come back. This reinforces trust, safety, and even builds memory. Playing pretend helps your child to practice making plans, negotiating, and can even develop their language skills.
Activities like these are good for their cognitive and emotional development. Toddlers learn how to interact with others by playing, furthering their social development. Children learn appropriate social behavior often by mimicking adults during play. Even your toddler’s physical development can be affected by playtime or lack thereof. A child who plays by running, jumping, skipping, rolling, etc., is going to be healthier than a child who is stuck in front of a TV or tablet for hours at a time.
So What Type of Play Is Best?
It all depends on the child and their needs, but all play is good. Some children thrive during free play (letting the child play in whatever way suits them), while others rely on structured playtime. During free play, children learn to make decisions, use their imagination, and navigate their emotions. Structured play is good for teaching problem-solving skills, but is also recognized for teaching rules and, well, structure.
All Play Is Important
No matter if your child plays alone or with others, it’s good for them. Playing alone ensures creativity and helps your child learn to be self-sufficient. Group play, whether free or structured, helps to develop social skills. Playtime with adults is important, too, allowing children to watch and learn how to be “grown-up.” It can be educational, creative, and just downright fun! Playtime, in any form, is important for your child’s development to establish a great foundation for all of the skills your child will need as an adult.
Remember, if your toddler spends the majority of their days elsewhere (i.e. daycare, preschool), make sure they still have the opportunity to play! Look for an environment that fosters love, education, and safety in playtime.