Parenting has rounded up some of the research showing how play makes babies smarter, better socialized and more competent at everything ranging from sports to schoolwork. Drawing on the work of Einstein Never Used Flashcards, they’ve come up with 10 reasons to let babies play.
Play helps develop intellect. It boosts social development. Kids who play on their own have better impulse control and concentration. In other words, they are better poised to become strong students than those who miss out on unstructured play in early childhood.
Helping kids get healthy play time is one of the easiest things you can do as a parent. Perhaps best of all, once you’ve set their playtime in motion, you can have a little time to yourself. Time you can spend doing your own thing. Play matters for grown-ups, too!
To help kids embrace free play, start with the simple and obvious: Turn off the TV. Shelve any electronic toys or devices. Replace the things that flash and beep with some inexpensive, simple creative playthings. For babies, a basket of silk scarves works great, as does a bucket of soft-edged kitchen implements. Slightly older kids will thrive with classic toys like blocks, play kitchens, dolls, and wood trains.
From there, your job is largely just to let them loose. Give your kids some unstructured time to play each day, during which they’re in charge of how they move, what they imagine, how they play. You can play with them, but you don’t have to. Part of the benefit of play is the way it stretches their minds and builds confidence in their own abilities.
The CNN/Parenting article has some great suggestions for how to foster play in all kinds of situations. They all boil down to letting it happen. Kids will play intuitively if they’re in the right environment for it.
What do you do to foster healthy play in your children?