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5 Ways Children Develop Through Play

Research shows there are many benefits to play. Nurture and Thrive has compiled the top five ways children develop through play. The following list  represents the types of play that affects a child’s development in deep and meaningful ways and that is also backed by some research.

1. Play Leads to Discovery of the Physical World (Physics and Math)

As children play, they discover and observe things in their world. This gives them a deep understanding of the natural physics and mathematical principles of the world. According to Piaget, learning is something that you do, not something that happens to you. Therefore, the act of learning is an activity and that includes playing.

It’s also important to let kids discover how things work on their own and not show them how it works. As parents, we can guide them and help them, but showing them takes away their discovery and we don’t want to do that.

“As children naturally observe, sort, measure, compare and manipulate objects they are building basic science and math skills,” the author writes.

They suggest that Lego play during the preschool years positively predicted performance on standardize tests in seventh grade and higher level math classes in middle and high school. An interesting aspect of the study is that Lego play didn’t predict math play in elementary school, but later in life.

2. Play Leads to Creative Thinking and Problem Solving

This is a given! As children discover, they also develop the ability to solve problems. While discovering, they learn observation, comparison, classification, and trial and error. In short, letting children play and experiment lead to better and more innovative problem solving than specifically teaching or showing them how to do something.

3. Play Helps Children Develop Self-Control and Social Skills

Children develop self-control and social skills by playing together, whether it be a game or on a playground. They can make up scenarios and practice self-regulation skills. As children work towards a common goal, they tend to regular their impulses in order to cooperate. The more children interact with each other, the more self-control and social skills they learn.

4. Play Builds Healthy Minds and Bodies

As research on children is limited in this area, it’s clear that with adults and teens, physical activity and exercise are related to greater physical health, reduced mental stress and becomes a buffer for depression and anxiety. Physical play helps kids develop strength and endurance. As kids move their bodies, their brains and bodies develop. Children also likely experience stress release after physical play, much like adults feel after exercising.

Encourage your children to go outside and play. Even horseplay can help them lose anxiety and change their mood. Running around, playing hide and seek, and flipping them over can change tenseness into giggles.

5. Play Promotes Connection and Relationships

Play is how children interact with their world. This is also how they communicate with each other. Most often as adults, we need to bond with them through playing directly with them and immersing ourselves into their world, injecting playfulness into routine activities to gain their cooperation, and just rough housing to encourage physical connection and stress relief.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “When parents observe their children in play or join with them in child-driven play, they are given a unique opportunity to see the world from their child’s vantage point as the child navigates a world perfectly created just to fit his or her needs.”

More specifics can be read at the Nurture and Thrive blog.

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