The importance of play

As a physical education teacher and a rowing coach, I’m exposed to all age ranges of children on a regular basis. This exposure is on a sport and recreational level. We see how the children move and how advanced their gross motor skills are.

A gross motor skill is a movement that requires the involvement of larger muscle groups, i.e. skipping, jumping, running, crawling, balancing, climbing, rolling over, sitting up, walking, etc.

I’ve been quite concerned over the years watching children that move into the high school that lack gross motor skills. Not being able to jump, crawl, skip, throw a ball, and the list goes on.

Play from an early age is so incredibly important for our youth.

Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.

O. Fred Donaldson

I’ve been surprised by the number of children in their teens that are unable to skip, ride a bicycle, or be able to sit up straight for longer than 10 seconds. It’s scary to think that because of how the technological age has changed, children spend even less time outdoors just playing and exploring.

Play is not only important for physical development. It is highly beneficial for creativity, imagination, brain development and learning. There are so many benefits to play.

Think of climbing a tree. As a child, you have to figure out which branches will be strong enough to hold your weight. The best route to climbing up the tree, the best branch to perch yourself on, and the best route to climb back down if jumping straight down is not an option. That is thinking… that is learning through play.

Playing is learning. Learning is not only actual learning. It is developing and acquiring a new skill, and there are so many skills one can learn through playing.

Nine benefits have been listed in the article the Importance of Play:

  • Stimulate early brain development
  • Improve intelligence
  • Spark creative thinking
  • Improves communication, vocabulary and language
  • Promotes impulse control and emotion regulation
  • Grow social competence and empathy
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Teach life lessons
  • Strengthen relationships with caretakers and peers

Play should be a part of a child’s every day life. Allowing your child to play with LEGO, play outside, explore the garden or the nearby park, lay in the rain, climb trees, chase their siblings or butterflies will all play a huge role in their early development and stay with them through their lives.

Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein

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