This is a sponsored post from CHOC Children's.
Have you ever thought about how important "play" is for children? We have all heard the word PLAY...but what does it exactly entail? I knew that letting my children have playtime was important...I did not really know why. I was able to chat with Dr. Harpreet Kaur, a psychologist at CHOC Children’s, and we discussed all about the importance of play and the benefits play brings to kids.
What is "Play"
Dr. Harpreet Kaur shared that there are many different kinds of "PLAY" and we encourage children's play to be self-directed, imaginative, and un-structured...meaning not lead by adults. Play can include playing with friends, toys, games or free time at the park, pool or beach. There are so many ways that children can play.
Play is an important part of the childhood development and can include social play, constructive play, imaginative play, and games with rules. Through play, children learn about their environment, cause and effect, and self-concept, according to Dr. Kaur. She adds that play helps kids learn social, motor, communication, and conflict resolution skills.
Many things can interfere with unstructured playtime for children including electronics and screen time, busy schedules and increased attention to academics and extracurricular activities. The importance of play time has diminished for our children and doctors have observed that children have fewer opportunities to just play and be kids. Schools have less recess, hurried lifestyles leave less time for free child-centered play, and there is less focus on imaginative and unstructured activities. It's not like when we were kids and ran all over the neighborhood until the street lights went on. Playdates are scheduled, sports have become more competitive, and more families have two parents working which can mean less family time.
The Benefits of Play
Play is important for healthy brain development in our children. Play allows children to develop their imaginations, fine motor skills, and their physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities. It teaches children to engage and interact in the world around them. Through play, Dr. Kaur says, children are able to make independent decisions without fear of failure or consequences, and that helps them learn to manage their own thoughts, feelings and actions.
There are many benefits of play and it is important that our children can get as much playtime as possible. Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups and to share with others. Did you know when they play with friends, they learn negotiation skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills, resolve conflict and gain confidence in themselves?
Many times, people tend to think that only outdoor activities are considered "good playtime." While it's fun to play outside, especially here in beautiful Orange County, you can also find things to do inside when the weather isn’t as nice. Kids can get great benefits of playing inside as well as outside. The main thing is to turn off the electronics, let children lead in the activities, and not to get over-scheduled about it.
Lastly, play not only has a lot of cognitive benefits, but it also has physical benefits. Play helps build healthy bodies and decreases the chances of obesity ― one of the biggest epidemics seen in kids today.
Ways to Fit Play in Your Busy Lifestyle
First of all, there is no set amount of time that should be required for play. Our lives don't need more stress trying to schedule play. In fact, that is the opposite of what we are hoping to achieve. Just try to fit it in whenever possible...the more the better! When children play, it's important to make sure they move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and become fully immersed in the passions they wish to pursue.
Everyone in the family can benefit from unstructured downtime, so it's a good idea to leave parts of your schedule open when possible. If you don't have any down time, you can even play games in the car. Storytelling and made-up games to play whenever there is a free moment can help you find ways to fit more play into busy schedules. You can even make chores such as setting the table and picking up toys into games. Toddlers and young children learn a lot from imaginative play. As they become older, the imaginative play decreases, but they can still get great unstructured social and physical play time with leisure sports, games, or free-time that doesn't involve a screen, says Dr. Kaur.
My Family’s Favorite Places to Play in Orange County
Orange County has a goldmine of places that give our children the opportunity of healthy play. Our weather is beautiful all year round, so our children can enjoy lots of outdoor play. Beach play is my family’s favorite location for outdoor play. Kids can build sandcastles, hunt for beach treasures, play in the water and make up all sorts of make believe games. We also have some great hiking trails and nature centers that allow kids the chance to explore and learn in their own ways.
Some of my family’s favorites are Oak Canyon Nature Center, Oso Creek Nature Trail, Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, and the Ocean Institute. Museums such as Discovery Cube, Pretend City and the La Habra Children's Museum are favorites of mine for learning in an unstructured environment, along with lots of chances for imaginative play. Finally, we have some amazing parks such as Bluebird Park in Laguna Beach, Atlantis Park in Garden Grove, the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, and even some super cool unique ones such as Adventure Playground in Irvine, and Adventure playground in Huntington Beach.
Time to Play
I hope that this post inspires you to get out and play with your children. Dr. Kaur has given us a good reminder that not every part of our lives need to be structured and that we should allow our kids to lead in some of the activities we do. It is okay to let them get dirty, feel, touch, and explore their surroundings, imagine, run around, dance, and put their imaginations into action. Not only will they enjoy themselves, they will also greatly benefit from it. Something that I am sure all of us parents want for our children. Time to play!