Remember being yelled at by your mom about coming home late and spending too much time playing with the neighbourhood kids? Turns out you could just have told her about all the benefits of staying out for Kabaddi, Chocolate box and Cops and Robbers – which have been found to be quite a few. It wasn’t just fun and games.. turns out you were actually contributing to your social, emotional and cognitive development with every one of your jumps in hopscotch. Who knew, right?
Let’s go back to the basics – Play is the process through which children stimulate their senses, learn how to use their muscles, coordinate sight with movement, gain mastery over their bodies and acquire new skills. Through their interactions with their environment as well as with other children and adults, their social and cognitive growth is decided. Co–operation, overcoming challenges, social interactions, dealing with loss and negotiating… these are all skills that children learn and develop through play with others.
Pretend play and imaginary play are types of alone play that children exhibit – and the stigma associated with it is enormous. Some parents might feel a sense of worry or apprehension when they see that their children play alone or have imaginary friends. In fact, this helps them understand others viewpoints better and construct a better social image of themselves. It also helps them develop individual problem solving and understanding skills, creativity, independence and maturity… and not poor social adjustment, as many parents may falsely believe.
Apart from such social skills that can be acquired through play, it also gives time for the parent-child bond to be strengthened (when parents play with their children), thus leading to a healthier attachment between them. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study in 2007 to probe into the various benefits of play – and found its importance in promoting development, as well as strengthening their bond with parents.
When deciding the manner of play for your own children, keep in mind that free play has the highest benefits, rather than structured play which is meant for certain ends or imparting moral teachings. It is through their own stumbling and own discoveries that children tend to learn the most. Also keep in mind that when deciding the manner in which your child is to spend their evenings, it is important to balance out time allotted for homework, hobbies and free play.
Interestingly, research has shown that adults who as children were allotted adequate playtime are more trusting, more flexible in their general demeanour as well as their thinking. Their manner of interaction with their surroundings has been seen to be more well-informed. More than that, children who are exposed to play tend to grow into adults who can better adapt and navigate through complex environments and situations.
How’s that for fair play?