Children love to play. Thank goodness! Because the importance of play for health development and learning can’t be understated.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And if Jack is a young child, it might even stunt his intellectual growth.

See, the fact of the matter is that, in order for a child to reach his or her developmental potential, he or she must engage in playtime. For this reason, you need to make play an everyday priority. 

Interested in learning more about the importance of play? We’re going to get into the specifics below. 

Why Playing is Important

Playing aids in many aspects of a child’s development. The primary benefits of playtime are as follows.

Helps Children Explore Their Imaginations

One of the most important benefits of playtime is that it helps to develop a child’s imagination. This is particularly true of free-form playtime, as it enables the child to act as he or she sees fit. That being said, structured activities promote imagination development as well. 

Promotes Logical Thinking 

In order to make it as a human being in our society, you have to be able to think logically. Logic is not only important for getting good grades and finding employment, but it’s also important in our social lives. 

This is why you have to give your child ample playtime. Playtime promotes logical thinking in that it enables children to understand cause and effect. The more a child plays, the more he or she understands the consequences of certain actions. 

Increases Emotional Intelligence

Human beings are emotional creatures. However, in order to be successful in life, we need to be able to cope with our emotions. Playtime is vital in helping us to do this. 

Playtime not only helps us to face our fears and reign in our aggression but to forge healthy connections with others. In other words, it turns us into kind, compassionate, and supportive members of society. 

Improves Memory 

Playtime is also vital in the development of memory as it places an importance on routine, friendship, and reasoning skills. All three of these entities require the memory to be utilized. 

Assists in Social Development

We live in a social world. If you can’t sufficiently communicate with others, you’re not going to get far. That’s one of the many reasons that you need to prioritize playtime for your child. 

Playtime fosters the cooperation, empathy, and compromise needed to successfully navigate social situations. This ability will pay major dividends as children grow older and eventually strike out on their own. 

Types of Play 

The nature of a child’s playtime should change as he or she grows older. This progression is summed up in a theory called Parten’s Stages of Play. Parten surmises that there are 6 play stages, all of which will be reviewed below. 

Unoccupied Play 

Unoccupied play is the type of play displayed by an infant. This is a play style in which the child will wave his or her arms, grab onto random objects, and take in what’s going on in his or her environment. 

To promote unoccupied play, you might consider giving your child a brightly-colored stuffed animal or rattle. It’s also a good idea to experiment with textures, as they will help the child with sensory development. 

Solitary Play 

The next stage is solitary play. This stage begins around 1 year of age, and it includes the child playing on his or her own.

During this stage, the child will play with everything he or she can touch. This includes tree branches, bushes, blocks, boxes, and anything else that might be laying around. 

When a child is engaging in solitary play, you should supervise only from a distance. The key is to help the child feel comfortable when with him or herself. 

Onlooker Play 

Next up is onlooker play, a form of play in which the child doesn’t play at all, but observes others playing instead. Onlooker play is important because it helps the child to learn about empathy, shared interests, and boundaries. 

It also helps the child to develop visual learning skills. Soon enough, you’ll see your child taking after his or her playmates. 

Parallel Play  

Parallel play is one of the biggest stages of childhood play because it’s the first form of play in which others are involved. During this stage, the child will play alongside other children, using the same blocks, toys, or what-have-you. 

At this stage, your child (and his or her playmates) might be a little selfish about sharing. As such, you should have plenty of toys laid out for everyone. To facilitate parallel play, you might consider buying some of these great learning games

Associative Play 

Next up is associative play. This happens around age 3, and it marks the first time that children actually play together. While this play will be disorganized, it will involve socializing and working together. 

This is a good time to break out the art supplies. However, building blocks are an appropriate choice as well. 

Cooperative Play  

The last stage of play is cooperative play. As you might imagine, this is a form of play in which the child starts working together with other children. This occurs around age 4 or 5 and generally marks the beginning of the child’s participation in sports. 

Other examples of cooperative play include building something together, putting on a play together, or simply just coming to a fair resolution after a dispute. 

It’s Impossible to Overstate the Importance of Play

When it comes to children, the importance of play can’t be overstated. While directed learning is vital as well, it should never come at the expense of playtime. Both are vital ingredients in a child’s development. 

Looking to learn more about childhood development? A Nation of Moms has you covered. Our website covers everything from intellectual development to physical development and more. 

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