The Importance of Play

As a parent, I’ve always believed in the blessing of a skinned knee. There’s immense learning that occurs when a child explores the world through play. Free, unstructured, uninterrupted play is a house of knowledge that every child needs in their life. In the current age of tabs and digital nannies, which also might act as a medium for learning, one simply cannot ignore the importance of play that happens gadget-free and the old school way.

child enjoying the outdoors

Some of my fondest childhood memories and moments of profound learning happened in the playground. Learning the art of balance to ride a cycle, friendships that bloomed over playtime or staying resilient in the midst of a losing game. These were life skills I learnt beyond the walls of a classroom. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to learn how to play”.

Here are some of the benefits of play :

Building Imagination: Play is a way for children to develop their creativity and imagination. Leaving them free in an unstructured setting, can help children brainstorm, conceptualise and invent games. This is exactly why children should be allowed to experience boredom once in a while. Pretend play is an important part of cognitive development, that allows children to create and imagine. As a parent, take the time to observe your little one at play sometimes, there’s nothing more entertaining and imaginative than their game of cooking. Where else would you get a banana broccoli sandwich?

child playing with sand on beach

Motor Development and Physical Exercise: This perhaps is the most important and non-negotiable benefit of play. A much-needed part of healthy development and unfortunately a dwindling part of children’s lives these days is physical exercise. The joy of running free, expending their energy and strengthening their body in the process is an indispensable part of development.

Social interaction and Life Skills: Play gives children the opportunity to interact with peers. Learning the art of give and take, how to share a toy, to wait their turn or negotiate. These are some important life skills that children learn on the playground. They also learn social expectations and norms through play. Play gives children the opportunity to also experience a range of emotions, all of which help them grow socially and emotionally.  

children running around in a park

How To Make Play A Part Of Your Child’s Life :

Part of your daily routine: In our home, evening time is set aside for play. Sometimes the children need a bit of nudging but on most days, come 4.30 and the kids are eager to step outside. Given the current covid situation, most kids may not have the chance to play outdoors, but games and fun can be planned indoors too. Make playtime a non-negotiable part of your child’s routine. Television and other screens can wait. But first, play.  On rainy days, pick a board game or enjoy some puzzles, even better, let them get bored. Just wait and watch what game they invent. The latest I heard from my kids, they were sailing on a ship in the Atlantic and carrying treasures for the King.

Enroll for sports: Pick a sport your child is most inclined to enjoy. Maybe a class of skating or football at the local park, swimming during the summer, enrolling your child in a sport can be an easy way to make play a part of your child’s routine. Sports not only allows your child to develop physical strength but also serves to imbibe discipline, sportsmanship and other important life skills.  

Get outdoors: Explore the parks nearby, plan short nature walks, let them explore nature around them, climb a tree, play with sand on a beach, or the path around the lake near your home. Look around and you will find plenty of outdoor spaces to enjoy. The best part of it all, most are free of cost.

Make it Fun and Interesting: Invite their friends over as children love company. Declutter their toys, discarding the ones they’ve outgrown. Get them age-appropriate toys and games. Building blocks for toddlers maybe or a football for an older child. Another useful trick to make sure they don’t get bored with their toys is to rotate them weekly or every fortnight. And when you run out of ideas and company, remember your company is probably the one they enjoy the most. Let them have the pleasure once in a while and you almost will never regret it.

children playing games at home

Considering we’re in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic, I understand, our children don’t have the opportunity to be outdoors as much as they should. But play and fun can happen aplenty even indoors. Get creative. Make a tent with bedsheets or let them play dress-up with hats and other accessories.  Let your kids use their imagination and you’ll be in for a treat.

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