4 Benefits of Play

Published by gearedtolive on

In a world full of child prodigies and Harvard hopefuls, the daily lives of kids everywhere are becoming increasingly structured. From intensive foreign language programs at school to intense competition on club sports teams, unstructured playtime seems to have fallen by the wayside, despite numerous studies that promote its benefits.

Research shows that unstructured play not only allows opportunities for kids to be creative, but also encourages the development of important life skills. In an article titled “The Benefits of Play are ‘Oh, so Big!’”, child and adolescent psychotherapist, Katie Hurley, says, “When children are given the opportunity to play on their own terms and have the time to do it, they thrive.”

It’s not news to you that unstructured play is beneficial to your kids, but how are you supposed to fit it into your already jam-packed schedule? Should play dates take precedence over soccer practice? Is your neighbor’s birthday party more important than an extra dance clinic? Is there enough time in the day to do it all?

Here’s where Lonehollow comes into play (pun intended). When you send your kids to camp, you’re not only allowing them the opportunity to grow in character and learn new skills, but also providing them with something all those extracurricular activities can’t: two weeks of (nearly) uninterrupted play.

And though we are of the firm belief that the camp schedule is the best schedule in the world, we also recognize that school and sports and marching band are equally important to your child’s development.

So while you can’t say yes to every play date while also juggling homework and dress rehearsals, here are four reasons why we (and Katie Hurley) are encouraging you to find a balance and prioritize play in your child’s schedule this fall.

Play Encourages Creativity

“We are conditioned to think of creativity as something that belongs to the artists of this world. Children drawn to music and art are often described as ‘creative,’ but playful children are every bit as creative as the kids who paint their days away.

Creativity involves tapping into the imagination and thinking outside the box. Through imaginative play, kids explore new ideas and interests. They create mini constructs of the world around them, as well as the world that exists in their fantasies.”

Play Strengthens Relationships

“Play helps children relate to others, improving sociability. Through play, kids establish new friendships and strengthen existing relationships. When lost in a world of unstructured play, children are free to get to know others and communicate their feelings, thoughts, and needs in a safe environment.

Through play, the quiet ‘watch and wait’ kids find ways to enter groups and feel confident in their ability to connect with others while their boisterous counterparts draw energy from the group and work on playing together.”

Play Provides Stress Relief

“Kids are constantly growing and learning. They confront new information daily. While most of that information is exciting and interesting, some of it can be overwhelming. It’s a lot to process.

Stress relief is one of the important benefits of play for children. They work through their feelings and confront triggers of stress, a process that increases self-awareness.

When my son entered first grade, a behavior clip chart caused him stress. Although he tends to be a quiet rule follower, watching others clip down left him worried. He created his own chart for his animal school and worked his way through his emotions. He also found ways to empower the animals to clip up instead of down. That particular stressor disappeared as he played his way through it.”

Play Fosters Empathy

“Play, be it group or solitary in nature, helps kids slow down and think about others. When a child cares for a stuffed animal, for example, the child empathizes with the animal. She considers the needs and feelings of the animal and proceeds accordingly. Within group play, kids learn to work together and listen to one another. If they don’t, the play comes to an end.

Some people believe that certain kids are simply more empathic than others. I believe that empathy can be learned and practiced through play. Empathy is a skill that helps connect us. It’s what makes us human. It’s essential that we foster empathy in our children, and that begins with play.”

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