Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Play Has Its Own Rewards

What do most Nobel Laureates, innovative entrepreneurs, artists, and performers, well-adjusted children, happy couples and families, and the most successfully adapted mammals have in common? ...they play enthusiastically throughout their lives.
Stuart Brown, Institute of Play
In our busy schedules that include work, school, family, church and many other activities and challenges, we sometimes fail to include play as a vital part of our routine. It is important for families and children to play together. This means to have time each day to allow for safe expression through family games, independent play activities, and/or a combination of both. It is known that play alleviates stress, as well as assists in safely expressing anxiety, anger and frustration. Play is also a natural and fun way to release energy. Researchers have supported the importance of play for many decades. Play is vital for children to develop and grow emotionally healthy. Children learn through play because they are very imaginative and are concrete thinkers. Old fashioned play builds important life skills such as problem solving, role rehearsals for life, positive relationship building and promotes overall emotional and physical developmental skills.

Children who have been fostered or adopted, have often experienced many transitions in their lives, as well as possible abuse. They may have pent up anger and anxiety from which they may benefit from imaginative and free play incorporated into their routine.

There are many types of play activities. Relaxation play can include fun family games such as; UNO, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, basketball, story time, puppet role play, and dress up - the possibilities are endless! Play dough can be an enriching family activity for children and parents as they benefit from creating items and being able to easily change them from one shape to another. Pounding the play dough with our hands is a good way to release aggression and frustration and to encourage freedom of expression about feelings of the day. Parents can provide art activities such as drawing, painting and coloring which allow children the time to express themselves freely without judgment. Make the play interactive with little competition and allow younger children an opportunity to direct and plan the play process.

 High energy activities or stimulating activities may be better implemented early in the evening. Parents may then provide some relaxation and routine calming time before bedtime so as to assist in preparation for sleep. It is not usually helpful to have wrestling or active games right before bedtime, as this serves to stimulate rather than calm the child.

It is important to note that when relaxed, it is easier to express inner feelings and to seek some assistance with daily problems. Young children will benefit from one on one time in which to communicate through their play what they are feeling and have experienced. Children often cannot express their emotions, fears and experiences through words, but they are able to communicate with you through play.

Begin incorporating imaginative and non-directed play for young children to explore their world. Set aside some time today to celebrate life after the long day of stressors that confront you and your family!

Play!

In what ways have you incorporated play into your family's life?  

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