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The Importance of Play

Play fosters numerous adaptive behaviors such as creativity, role rehearsal, and mind/body integration, while increasing self-esteem and decreases stress. “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that individual discovers the self” (Winnicott, 1971).


Many of us are familiar on why play is important for children, yet play is just as important for adults. In our life as an adult, many of us focus on work and family commitments, losing track of time committed to fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we stopped playing. As adults, it is more common to carve out leisure time or media or couch time than engaging in fun, rejuvenating play, as we did when we were children. Play is not just for children; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well.


Playtime is important to many aspects of the healthy growth and development of kids’ brains. Play is instrumental in helping them develop the skills required for success in school and beyond.


Play helps children with:


Memory: Short and long-term memory is enhanced when kids play with toys or games repeatedly, recalling rules, strategies, and other details from previous playtime sessions.


Visual and Spatial Awareness: When children understand where they are in space in relationship with objects and other people, it helps with not bumping into things and picking things up, but also so much more.


Language: Children of all ages, including infants and toddlers, can learn all kinds of new vocabulary through play, especially when there is an adult nearby to guide and provide input. Even if they can’t say or use the words, they can still learn the meanings.


Communication and Social Skills: When playing with others, children learn about interpreting tone of voice and facial expressions and conducting appropriate interactions. They also build empathy and learn about the art of negotiation.


Attention Span: Certain types of play, especially those related to construction, promote sustained attention on one activity or object, as well as the ability to manage competing demands or avoid distraction.


Fine and Gross Motor Skills: All forms of active play involve some kind of motor skill, whether children are manipulating objects, gaining proficiency with both hands, improving hand-eye coordination, or increasing strength and agility in large muscle groups.


Play helps adults with:


Stress relief: Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can temporarily relive pain.


Improve brain function: Pursing fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction aspects of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and feelings of anxiety and depression.


Stimulate the mind and boost creativity: Young children often learn best when playing, which also applies to adults as well. When the task if fun, you’ll learn better in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate imagination and help you adapt and solve problems.


Improve relationships and your connection to others: Play can be a state of mind. Developing playful environments can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new friends, and form new business relationships. Sharing laughter and fun and foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others.


Keep you feeling young and energetic: “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.

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