The Benefits of Play for Parents
At times play is described as an escape from learning, but the reality is: Play is learning. Author Peter Grey illustrates this best in his book titled, “Free to Learn,” where he reviews and provides psychological, anthropological, and historical evidence that supports play as a vehicle for learning. When children play, parents reap the benefits of a happier and well-adjusted child. Play serves to reduce stress, make children make sense of their world, and develops important life skills among other benefits.
Play reduces stress At the end of a long day, adults decompress by changing into comfortable clothing, going for a walk, or resting (in an ideal world without other responsibilities and children to care for.) Children on the other hand gravitate towards play at the end of a long day. Where on earth do they find the energy to still play after being in school? Play for children is the equivalent of changing in to lounge wear after a long day. This is because play reduces stress and serves to decompress and process the day. Play gives children a sense of control. In other words, in a world where a child’s entire day is planned out and directed by others, play allows for children to determine what happens and how. This is a powerful stress reducer. (Minnesota Children’s Museum. 2020)
Play helps children make sense of their world
In addition to having their days directed and structured by others, children are constantly learning new things about their world from others around them, some of which they may or may not be ready for. Play helps children make sense of the new and sometimes scary things they learn. For example, a child may come home having heard a scary story from a peer in school. They may try to act this out in their play and attempt to defeat a new made-up villain. Play helps a child organize the information they’ve received, play out different scenarios and outcomes, and defeat the bad guy/girl as a measure of ensuring that the child feels safe and is able to overcome and understand whatever new information they’ve received.
Play helps to develop important life skills
Children learn skills through play by observing others around them and trying out many of the things they see adults do in their day today via pretend play where they themselves envision taking on that role. Therefore, children often gravitate towards play themes that mirror daily chores, activities, and responsibilities of parents and adults. Think about the types of things your child is playing when pretending. Are they reenacting a trip to the store to buy something? Playing school? Are they playing house with various organized roles or are they building something? Regardless of what adult task a child is reenacting, they are learning some of the life skills associated with that role.
So, the next time your child comes home and invites you to play, however hard it may feel, accept the invitation into their world, even if for a short period of time as doing so will not only help to strengthen the bond between you and your child, but also give insight into the types of things your child is learning and exploring.