How Play Can Improve Your Child’s Health

There has been a growing understanding of the vital nature of play in a child’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that play is a child’s job.  While this may sound whimsical, it is a matter of some seriousness to child development specialists. Recently it has been acknowledged as such a significant part of a child’s life that pediatricians have been encouraged to write prescriptions for it.  Play is commonly perceived as an “extra”, something we spend time doing when we have time to “waste.”  The findings of the AAP suggest that this perspective is entirely wrong. Without sufficient time spent playing a child’s mental and emotional development can be impacted in serious ways.  Keep reading to find out why your child’s next prescription may include mandatory play time.

How Play Can Improve Your Child’s Mental, Physical, and Emotional Health

Executive functions aren’t a natural part of human development.  They are a skill that requires ongoing development and active engagement to reach their potential. Play is one place where a child can exert themselves in a way that develops this trait. Playing with other children is an equally important part of this process. It helps to develop social skills, conflict resolution skills, and methods of cooperating with others in unstructured environments. Another important aspect of time spent playing is learning to be self-motivating. This means that time spent entertaining themselves is as essential as time spend engaging with other children. Some other benefits that children gain when playing include:

  • Parents who spend time playing with their children build important bonds
  • Play builds nurturing, stable, and safe relationships
  • Child development is promoted through serve and return interactions. These developmental improvements aid them in later life
  • The brain responds to play by building neural pathways in respond to interactions with other children and caregivers
  • Executive function skills are developed that play an important role in numerous aspects, including:
    • Short-term memory
    • Negotiation
    • Collaboration
    • Organization
    • Trouble-Shooting
    • Self-Regulation

All of these factors come together to help our children thrive socially later in life.  The physical benefits of play come from the increased activity that tends to occur when children play. One additional element of play that cannot be overstated. Regardless of age time spent playing and interacting with others can serve to reduce stress levels. Everyone experiences stress in their day-to-day lives, even children.  Play is a great way to relieve stress, and can help them sleep better at night as well.

Learn More About The Benefits Of Play From Your Pediatrician

If your pediatrician prescribes play for your child, they may be specific about the type.  Object play involves children playing with toys, cars, or other objects. Physical play involves physical activity, typically rough-and-tumble play.  This can occur alone, or as part of a team activity as the pediatrician directs. Outdoor play engages them with the outdoors, and can serve to help improve mood and gain a deeper connection with the world at large. These are just some of the types of play that have been found to be beneficial for children of all ages.  Ask your pediatrician to learn more.

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