Play – it’s not just for littlies!
When we think of play, we tend to think of younger children: usually eight or under, playing games of hide and seek and tag, having fun with dolls and cars, going on imaginary adventures, pretending to be pirates or unicorns.
It’s true that younger children love these kinds of games. However, play is important for older children, too! In fact, play is important for children – and adults – of all ages.
Play is widely recognised as being vital to children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Schools understand this need, especially in the early years. But as adults and parents, we tend to think children’s need for play decreases over time, even stopping once they reach a certain age or master certain developmental milestones.
However, researchers are finding that the importance of play lasts far beyond early childhood.
“We are now starting to get a much better understanding of the value of play,” according to Ben Tawil and Mike Barclay from Ludicology, a non-profit organisation in the UK that researches and promotes play.
“We seem to think that value desists after about three years, when in reality, all the same value being gained by a child in the first 1,000 days of life is being gained for human beings that have opportunities to play through their early and late youth, and most likely right throughout the life course.” (Play Australia Member News, Winter 2019, Issue 06).
This is because the benefits of play extend beyond childhood. Consider the following two (non-age dependent) definitions of “play”:
Put simply, play is fun! It adds joy to life, relieves stress, keeps us energised and creative, and connects us to the world and people around us. This is as true for a 10-year-old as it is for a 90-year-old!
Of course, a 12-year-old’s idea of play is not the same as a five-year-old’s. And an adult’s idea of play is not the same as a 12-year-old’s! That’s why it’s essential that we, as parents, give our children space to engage in outdoor and impromptu play – games they devise themselves, free of constraints, so their imaginations can run wild. Let them have some rough and tumble. Allow them to take risks within a safe environment so that they may explore and expand their physical, emotional and creative strengths.
And what’s one of the best ways to get your child to play? Play with them! Go outside, put your worries and to-do lists aside, let go of your expectations, and play. You’ll reap the benefits, too.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Written by Lauren from Full Stop Publishing.
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