Here at District Speech, we provide speech therapy treatments for children. But it’s more than just speech – it’s helping a child to better explore and understand the world around them. The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has declared it a basic right for every child, and there’s a good reason for it. More than giving a child time to enjoy a time of carefree innocence, play helps children to better understand the world around them. Our goal is a happy, healthy child, and because speech and communication is a huge part of play, we thought we’d look at all the other ways play is important to your child, too. How Do We Define "Play"? An interesting way to define play is ‘work’ for children. They might not get paid for it (wouldn’t that be nice!) but their job is to build their behavioral, social, psychological, and motor skills. When it’s at its best, it’s directed by the child, spontaneous, enjoyable, and rewarding. Benefits Of Play To A Child's Development The majority of children here in the Western world are lucky enough to have access to play. However, children in developing countries often are engaged in labor and employment activities – even in 2020 – which prevents them from enjoying the benefits of playtime. On the other end of the spectrum, the benefits of play are so well established that most private schools mandate play for their students, because they know how much it contributes to long-term success. Let’s take a look at what some of those benefits are. 1. It's Good For Their Cognition Playtime, from one perspective, is all skill learning and practice, embedded in a format that makes sense for the developing brain. A child’s amazing, growing mind will automatically gather information as they play – about what works, and what doesn’t. Jump-starting their innate analysis and reason in a low-stress environment helps their synapses to make healthy connections. 2. It Improves Physical Fitness Remember the last time you hated the workout you’d set for yourself? Kids don’t have that experience when they play – they just move, happily and naturally. In fact, play is far superior to many types of exercise that focus on targeted muscle groups and repetition; play uses all muscle groups and usually incorporates cardio, as well. It helps with gross motor skills, better balance, and movement control. Physiologically, this all contributes to strong muscles, better cardiovascular function, and bone density. Play has been pointed to as an effective tool against rising obesity rates in American children. Play helps kids to love being active, and to recognize it as the natural thing it is. A child who grows up playing actively will find it easier to maintain physical health in adulthood too. 3. It Helps Build Your Child's Imagination Play is creative by its very nature; by prioritizing playtime, you give your child the opportunity to let their imagination blossom. Our imaginations contribute to our resiliency – they are a built-in coping mechanism that goes far beyond mere daydreaming. It’s very easy to understand parents that want only the best for their kids, who program their weeks with a multitude of classes, enrichment opportunities, and skills development. However, it’s a powerful imagination that translates into the ability to think abstractly, allow for more advanced learning and improved problem-solving skills. Imagination helps kids to see possibilities instead of limitations. 4. It Helps Encourage Independence Play is not just fun and creativity, but curiosity and exploration. It’s true that most children (especially in our society) will almost always engage in play under the watchful eye of an adult. However, it’s important that as adults, we don’t dictate how they play or control it too much; children very naturally adapt to what we say, and this limits them. Instead, let the child direct the play, even if you are a participant in that play. By determining the outcome of their own play, children learn to think ahead, consider different options, draw on their own knowledge and experiences, and make choices. All these contribute to building their independence, which stands them in excellent stead for the day they leave the nest. The astrophysicist and educator Neil DeGrasse Tyson outlines it spectacularly in the video below: “Kids are born scientists,” he says. “They’re always turning over rocks and plucking pedals off of flowers. They’re always doing things that by and large are destructive, and that’s what exploration kind of is. You take stuff apart, whether or not you know how to put it back together. This is what kids do. An adult scientist is a kid who never grew up. What happens at home is the kid reaches into the refrigerator, pulls out an egg, and starts juggling it. What’s the first thing you do as a parent? ‘ stop playing with the egg, it could break. Put it back!’” “Excuse me, this is an experiment in the material strength. Let the kid find out that when it drops it breaks. This is a physics experiment! Rapidly turned into a biology experiment. The yolk oozes out, and you say ‘hey, that becomes a chicken one day.’ Wait, how does this gooey yolk become a chicken? Well that’s biology, check that out. And what did the egg cost you, 20 cents?” Let your child explore independently, within the bounds of safety of course, and they’ll maintain that curiosity and independence into their adult life. 5. It Has Emotional And Behavioral Benefits Kids are extremely intuitive, but they don’t always know what to do with that. Children are in for a hormonal roller-coaster when puberty arrives, and that can have a huge impact on their emotions and how they’re able to control them. That’s why play is so crucial in the younger years – it allows them to not only better understand their emotions, but calibrate how they behave in relation to those emotions. It helps them to fine-tune their ability to perceive emotions in others, and we can probably agree that raising a compassionate adult is a goal for most parents. Behavior is frequently impacted by stress, in humans; self-directed play is proven to reduce stress for most children. 6. It Helps Build Social Skills I’m sure it’s no surprise at all that play will help your child build their social skills. Allowing children to play with others – whether other kids or adults – allows them the experience of interaction. Over time, the multitudes of interactions they accrue and process will help them to learn society’s rules and pitfalls first-hand, which means they learn them more deeply than when being admonished by an adult. Children who play learn to both be compassionate with other kids and also develop and protect their own boundaries. Playtime teaches them to communicate about their interests and passions with others, which can help them find others with similar interests. Play is what helps many children develop lifelong and profound friendships and community, which will provide support for your child as they grow. Book An Appointment With District Speech If you’ve noticed that your child doesn’t play as often with others as they do with family members, it could be because they are having speech issues that hinder their play. Understanding the incredible value of play, we are dedicated to helping your child unlock their play potential. Let’s get your child back in the swing by helping them learn better speech skills so that they don’t feel left out. Call now to book your appointment with District Speech, and watch your child flourish.