Why Play Matters, Steve Gross MSW & Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Foundation.
Why Play Matters
Play is a big topic. While play is self-evident to most people, it’s value for good is not fully appreciated or acted upon. While play is usually associated with childhood, it’s pervasive throughout life.
Scientific understanding of neuroscience and child development research has established that play is essential for children’s healthy cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development for success in school and life.
Stresses on children and families have increased, and opportunities for creative, open-ended, imaginative play in homes, neighborhoods and schools have diminished. Many parents, childcare providers, and educators do not have the resources to facilitate and maximize children’s development and learning through play.
The importance of play cannot be underestimated in its role and impact on children and families and the community at large. Our shared belief is that:
- Play is essential to human development and well-being.
- Play is not a luxury, it's not just a pastime and it's not just for kids. It's for all ages.
- Play can keep us young at heart. It helps us see from a fresh perspective. It stimulates our thinking. It turns tasks into fun, builds relationships and makes life more meaningful and enjoyable.
- Play experiences can be enhanced by the quality and frequency of play.
- Promoting the benefits of play and facilitating an increased number of constructive play experiences will enhance the lives of the players, those that care for them and those that care about them, and society as a whole.
Healthy benefits of play
Play builds and exercises fundamental skills. (Develops sharper minds, literacy skills & healthier bodies.)
- Play builds sensory, motor, language, memory, problem-solving and thinking skills.
- Play gives us a way to communicate, with or without words.
Play helps form and maintain identity. (Builds stronger and balanced social-emotional skills.)
- Playing allows us to develop relationships and learn about our abilities and our capabilities (assets).
- Play enables us to learn how to work as a team member, control emotion and to resolve conflict.
Play encourages creativity. (Stimulates exploration, experimentation, imagination and innovation.)
- Play exercises, develops and enriches our imagination, abstract reasoning capacity, memory and language, self-confidence and flexible attitude.
- Play gives us opportunities to figure things out, and invent new ways of doing things.
Play instills values. (Establishes the lenses for seeing and acting in society.)
- Play experiences help us discover the value of rules, directions, boundaries, manners, attitudes and moral virtues including respect for oneself and others.
- Play develops, strengthens, and rejuvenates relationships. Loving, supportive relationships enable us to develop, learn, and fulfill our potential.
Play transforms us. (Facilitates positive change and growth throughout life.)
- Play gives us insight and changes our perception of others, our community, the world and ourselves.
- Play enables us to change our knowledge, attitude, and behaviors.
Recipe for Play
For all ages – for the child in all of us !
#1 . Allow time for play – pure play without distractions.
- Turn off the TV, move away from the computer.
- Bigger blocks of time & more frequent play is best.
#2. Play with others – children, family members, friends.
- Take opportunities to spend “playful” time with each other.
- Pretend, be silly, create together.
- Listen, participate, sometimes follow, sometimes lead.
- Share in others excitement of discovery, accomplishment.
- Help others feel safe to express themselves freely.
#3. Create an encouraging environment – a safe, supportive setting.
- Set up an environment that inspires pretend and creativity.
- Allow for “messy” creative play and physically active play.
- Set limits and rules, as necessary, to ensure safe play.
- Acknowledge creativity and individual uniqueness.
- Provide opportunities for solitary play and play with others.
#4. Provide a wide variety of materials and toys that stimulate play.
- Provide props for play that encourages interaction with others.
- Provide opportunities where the “process” is most important.
- Provide multiple experiences to expand learning & perception.
- Provide tools for play that support all development areas & skills
Ingredients of Play
Experts say ingredients of constructive positive play include:
Freedom of expression
Experiencing "I can!"
Spontaneity & Joy