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All Kids and Adults Need To Play and Let Loose!

Updated March 15, 2021

Audrey Rider

SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist

Parents playing with their children in a living room.
Courtesy: Canva

Have you ever taken 10 to 15 minutes on your break to just run around the room or office or go outside to collect rocks or flowers?

Movement and unstructured activity help increase memory, perception, attention, emotion and basic decision making. Our nervous system does not fully mature until ages one to 20, so active play is important for brain growth.

Unstructured play time is ok. Here are 10 things parents need to know about play from Laurel Bongiorno and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

10 Things to Know About Play

  1. Children learn through their play.
    Cognitive and physical skills, new vocabulary, social and literacy skills are all gained.

  2. Play is healthy.
    It will help kids stay healthy and reduce obesity issues many children face today.

  3. Play reduces stress.
    It provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.

  4. Play is more than meets the eye.
    There are many types of play, such as symbolic, sociodramatic, functional and games with rules.

  5. Make time for play.
    Be a role model to your kids and take time to play with them and show them it is ok to just play.

  6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.
    They are intertwined, and play is a child’s laboratory.

  1. Play outside.
    Do you remember making forts or meeting up with the neighborhood children and riding bikes? Make sure your kids have these same experiences.

  2. There’s a lot to learn about play.
    There is lots of research and articles written on play, so take time to understand its importance.

  3. Trust your own playful instincts.
    Remember, play comes naturally to kids, so give them time to do this and watch what they create.

  4. Play is a child’s context for learning.
    It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders and make out checks. These are opportunities to build self-esteem and life skills.

It’s amazing how much more energy and attention you can have at work or even in school if you can get out and play at different times of the day. Try it and make more memories with your kids.