The Critical Role of Playtime in the Development of Children

The Critical Role of Playtime in the Development of Children

Playtime is a critical part of the mental, emotional, physical and social development of children. This is why children, from as young as one month old, start to play on their own. Their playtime is not limited to just tangible objects. Despite their limited comprehension of the world, kids will create amazing fictional universes that will allow them to mimic known physical laws and explore the boundaries of their understanding.

It’s no coincidence that children from the same socioeconomic background will frequently have similar imaginary playtime involving the same heroic, mythological or memorable characters, such as cowboys and Indians, knights, princesses, and dragons, and many popular action figures.

The Benefits of Playtime

The seemingly random structure of playtime may be the secret behind its efficacy. As we are all aware, the major differences between humans and other forms of life on earth are our adaptability, creativity and flexibility – all these things we pick up during unsupervised playtime.

For infants and toddlers, play time will perceptibly accelerate their cognitive development. For older toddlers, the most memorable improvements from playtime are observed in their motor and social skills, as well as spatial awareness. As children grow older, the benefits will manifest across the whole development spectrum.

This is why, from time immemorial, toys have been made for children; our ancient forebears innately recognised the role toys play. In more recent eras, this understanding has resulted in many modern traditions which we have taken for granted – playgrounds and physical education (PE) classes are the two most obvious examples.

The benefits of playtime extend well into the teenage years. In France, reintroducing playtime into the curriculum actually managed to reduce incidences of school violence and help improve struggling students. The World Economic Forum, in its 2018 annual meeting, even argued that playtime is a critical factor in raising academically and socially successful children.

How Parents Can Create Nurturing Playtime Environment

With so much riding on playtime, especially considering that many schools in UK are actually cutting short playtime and lunch hours, it makes sense for parents to play a greater role in managing their children’s playtime needs.

However, don’t worry – it’s really not that difficult.

• Play with them: Demonstrating how playtime can be performed, and the resulting fun and amusement, will spur children, particularly the younger ones, to be bolder in their experimentations. It is also a fabulous way to bond with your kids.

• Provide the outdoor tools: A flat surface in the garden is more than sufficient to get children started. However, climbing frames, swing sets, inflatable houses and ride on toys, among others, can provide the seeds for creating a richer playtime environment. The presence of other children will further heighten the playtime potential as well introducing children to concepts and soft skills such as sharing and team work.

• Push the boundaries: Consistently, but carefully, push the mental and physical boundaries of children. Toys such as magic trick sets for kids, wooden sandboxes and miniature racquet games will do wonders for their development.

As always though, please ensure that their play environment is safe, and that they are having fun!

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