Both children and adults learn through play. This, of course, is not news to those of us in the field of play therapy. What is news is that we need to improve the quality of play for everyone. Many parents and educators are no longer in touch with children’s need for play due to our accelerated, achievement-oriented culture.
What are the benefits of play?
In neighborhoods without a park or playground the incidence of childhood obesity increases 29% (Health Affairs, KaBOOM! 2010).
1. Play helps children use their imagination.
2. Play helps children learn new words.
3. Children learn about their emotions through play.
4. Play helps developing brains grow.
5. Social skills develop through play.
How can a parent or grandparent encourage play?
Children and adolescents between the ages of eight to 18 spend an average of seven and a half hours in front of the television or computer. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010)
1. Play with your children or grandchildren and be a role model. Playing together deepens your relationship.
2. Find ways to play that you enjoy as a parent or grandparent and spend time together participating in these activities, playing games, taking part in outings or structured activities.
3. Travel to a variety of playgrounds and parks to play. If you do not have an adequate playground in your area, advocate for a playground to be built with other parents.
What are some ways I can play with my children or grandchildren?
1. Play outdoors together. Take a walk in the neighborhood, a hike in the woods or on the beach. Skip, jump rope, throw a ball, play tag, stomp in the mud, build snow families. For example, a friend of mine in Minnesota built a family of snow hippos!
2. Children can help and play while cleaning up the yard, washing the dog, gardening, washing the car.
3. Indoors, children can play grocery store while helping a parent or grandparent to market, help sweep floors using child-size brooms, help dust, and help care for pets.
4. Pretend-walk through different places: walk through the woods, on a different planet, underwater, on the beach, fly together, and imagine what you see or who shows up in the places you visit.
5. Create your own marching band using oatmeal boxes with lids or other empty containers filled with beans for musical shakers, or pots and pans and wooden spoons for a drum set.
Simple/Low-Cost Toys to Play With Indoors
Only one in five children in the United States live within a half-mile of a park; the deficit is worse in low income neighborhoods. (CDC State Indicator Report on Physical Activity, 2010)
- Plastic lids for Frisbees
- Empty boxes or baskets
- Sock balls
- Dress up clothes
- Beach balls
- Hoola hoops
- Jump ropes
Games to play:
- Dance to music
- Make up stories under the covers
- Share your day and night dreams as a family
- Hide-and-seek in daylight, & in the dark with flashlights
How are you going to play this winter season with your kids?
Remember when you were a kid?—how did you play?
With the leaves off many of our trees and snow on the ground in some places, there are plenty of ways to play. One great way to spend the day playfully is bird watching together and then drawing or creating picture books of the day’s adventure. Both children and adults can dance to music and fly freely about the living room or outdoors in the front yard.
At the park or lying on the living room floor both children and parents can imitate the songs of their favorite birds. A trip to the library will bring a treasure trove of images and stories to share about birds, their habits, and ways to play in and improve our environment.
I encourage you and your children to add to the playful suggestions I have offered and add them to your “play” list. Please comment and send some of your suggestions so I can add them to future posts.
- KaBOOM! @ http://kaboom.org
- The Grass Stain Guru @ http://grassstainguru.com
Boston, Theresa(Ed). Kauka, Kanani (Ed). (2010 January). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds: A Kaiser Family Foundation Study. Retrieved from http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf
Health|KaBOOM! . (2010, Dec). KaBOOM!. http://kaboom.org/category/blog_tags/health
© Copyright 2010 by Mary Alice Long, PhD, therapist in Langley, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.