Guest post by Annamarie von Firley from Fledglings Flight
Play is an intrinsic part of childhood, as children engage in imaginative and spontaneous activities that encourage curiosity and fill them with delight. While play is often perceived as an indulgent activity without a clear sense of purpose by results-oriented parents focused on their children’s academic achievement as their benchmark of success, research indicates that it plays a vital role in promoting healthy child development. Let’s explore the significance of play in shaping children’s body, mind, and spirit through the development of their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being.
BODY – Enhancing Physical Development:
Physical play, such as running, jumping, and climbing, is crucial for children’s gross motor skill development and overall physical health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), active play helps children build strong muscles, develop coordination, and maintain a healthy weight . Furthermore, research published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that physical play contributes to the development of children’s balance, spatial awareness, and motor planning skills . By engaging in play that involves movement, children strengthen their bodies and develop the foundations for an active lifestyle throughout their lives.
MIND – Fostering Cognitive Growth:
Play is not merely about fun; it also stimulates cognitive growth and intellectual abilities. Cognitive growth refers to the development of the ability to think and reason. Various forms of play, including constructive play, such as building a city out of blocks, and pretend play, enhance problem-solving skills, creativity, and imagination. The article, “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development”, by Montana State University’s Family and Consumer Sciences department emphasizes how play supports the development of cognitive processes, such as decision-making, critical thinking, and abstract reasoning  that can be observed when a child creates a fictional situation by pretending to be a doctor, plans and builds a car out of Legos, or participates in strategy games like chess or checkers. When children engage in open-ended play scenarios, they learn to explore different possibilities and experiment with new ideas, fostering the development of their ability to think and reason and preparing them for future challenges.
SPIRIT – Nurturing Emotional Well-being:
Play serves as a natural outlet for children to express and regulate their emotions, supporting their emotional well-being. The AAP asserts that play helps children develop resilience, reduce stress, and cope with challenging situations . Pretend play, for instance, allows children to explore and make sense of various emotions in a safe and controlled environment. Moreover, play therapy has been widely recognized as an effective intervention for children dealing with emotional difficulties and trauma . By engaging in play, children develop emotional intelligence, learn to manage their feelings, and build a solid foundation for their mental health.
Cultivating Social Skills:
Through play, children develop crucial social skills that enable them to interact and communicate effectively with their peers and adults. The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) highlights the significance of play in promoting social competence, cooperation, and empathy . Play situations often require negotiation, sharing, and taking turns, allowing children to develop interpersonal skills and navigate complex social dynamics. Research further suggests that children who engage in cooperative play activities demonstrate higher levels of empathy and are better equipped to manage conflicts . By providing opportunities for social interaction, play lays the foundation for healthy relationships and positive social interactions later in life.
The importance of play in child development cannot be overstated. It encompasses various types of activities that contribute to children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Physical play promotes healthy bodies, while cognitive play nurtures problem solving and creativity. Social play cultivates interpersonal skills, and emotional play facilitates emotional regulation and well-being. As parents, caregivers, and educators, it is essential to recognize the profound impact play has on a child’s holistic development and provide ample opportunities for play-based experiences.
How to Create Play-based Experiences
Recognizing the importance of presenting daily opportunities for play for your child can feel like one more thing to add to your endless to-do list, increasing the mental load with which you are burdened. Taking time to research play-based experiences that can enhance your child’s development seems impossible after a day spent running on the incessant treadmill of daily obligations such as grocery shopping, putting groceries away, cooking, cleaning, collecting laundry, washing clothes, folding laundry while bathing, dressing, feeding, and managing your child’s social calendar.
Fledglings’ Flight is a free resource for parents of children 0-3 years old that reduces your mental load by providing you access to 100 to 200 play-based activities for each month of life that focus on developing your child’s fine and gross motor skills, cognitive and social-motional skills, as well as their ability to communicate and process sensory experiences. By selecting at least one activity in each of the 6 developmental category that have been developed by experts in mobility, fine motor skills, mental growth, emotional development, sensory processing, and speech, you can enhance your child’s development by providing opportunities to introduce your child to new experiences and to master developing skills that will lead them to the next stage of development.
Basic Members of Fledglings’ Flight can track the 812 milestones that their child should achieve by their 4th birthday. Premium members receive a monthly “Toolbox” featuring developmental toys tailored to their child’s unique developmental needs whether they are delayed, on-track, advanced, or asynchronous. Fledglings’ Flight uses parent-provided data such as which milestones were achieved and when, exercises completed, and whether or the child was born prematurely, as well as feedback on the child’s experience with the toys, to create a unique developmental profile that looks for lags or acceleration. Fledglings’ Flight is the only subscription service that customizes their boxes to each child’s particular needs every month.
You can create your free account by visiting https://www.fledglingsflight.com/parents . Enjoy 10% off a 3-month trial of Premium membership that includes 3 customized subscriptions boxes, milestone tracking for 1 year, 4280 play-based exercises, as well as resource library of articles and papers on child development. Visit https://www.adventuretowntoys.com/Subscript-Dev.html and use Coupon Code: PCCONNECTION to receive your discount. Optimize your child’s development today.
- Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, Kenneth R. et al. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.” American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). January 1, 2007. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/119/1/182/70699/The-Importance-of-Play-in-Promoting-Healthy-Child?autologincheck=redirected?nfToken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
- Dankiw, Kylie A., et al., PLOS ONE, “The Impacts of Unstructured Nature Play on Health in Early Childhood Development: A Systematic Review.” February 13, 2020. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0229006&trk=organization_guest_main-feed-card_reshare_feed-article-content
- Anderson-McNamee, Jona K., Bailey, Sandra J., “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development.” Family and Consumer Science. Montana State University. April 2010. http://lanefacs.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/65563699/Importance%20of%20Play.pdf
- Bodrova, Elena, and Leong, Deborah J. “The Importance of Play: Why Children Need to Play.” Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), September 2005. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234633527_The_Importance_of_Play_Why_Children_Need_to_Play