The Benefits & Important Of Playtime For Kids – The Ultimate Guide

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Did you know that there is more to playtime for kids than just having fun? While having fun is a bonus for playtime, it’s vital for your child’s proper development and cognitive growth. Kids increase their gross and fine motor skills, work on social skills, refine their creativity, and more when they play.

Parents might, at times, contemplating cutting back on your child’s available free playtime, whether inside or outside. You might have trouble with scheduling, or you could be concerned with safety. The issue could be entirely different.

No matter why you are considering reducing playtime, here’s the deal.

You need to spend time finding more playtime for your child rather than reducing it. Playtime is vital for kids, more essential than a busy schedule.

Don’t believe me? Well, you need to keep reading to learn why playtime for kids is so crucial and how it benefits your child in multiple ways.

We live in a busy world, and families seem to be making their schedules busier rather than adding more time to relax. As we add to our kids’ daytime schedule, we decease their available free playtime.

What do we mean by free playtime?

This is time without any structured play. Your child is free to decide what and how he wants to play. He can conclude that he wants to play with his blocks or decide that he wants to draw and have art time.

While some structured activities, such as soccer or music lessons, are beneficial to kids and designed for educational purposes, they cause your child to reduce their available free time. As kids get older, they end up with even less free time. Schools expect kids to learn at a faster rate, participate in more clubs and extracurricular activities, leading to less family time and playtime.

While a lot of benefits come from playing solo, playtime with other kids is just as important. When your child plays with other kids, they learn valuable skills that they wouldn’t be about to hone otherwise. Kids need unstructured playtime together, increasing their socialization skills and conflict resolution abilities.

The Negative Consequences of No Play Time

When your child doesn’t get enough playtime, he misses out on emotional, social, physical, and cognitive benefits. As your child plays, you cannot see all of the neurological developments taking place.

 Lack of playtime can also lead to other negative consequences for your child, such as an increase in anxiety or feelings of being “uptight.” Anxiety and depression are on the rise in children without the last recent decades, and that impacts the happiness of your kids. Also, for other kids, a lack of playtime and an increase in anxiety or depression can cause an increase in violence.

9 Benefits of Regular Playtime for Kids

1. Leads to Better Physical Health

We want our kids to play because it encourages physical health. The more time our kids spend playing, whether inside or outside, the healthier they will be.

Playing gives your child more physical activity than they would get otherwise. There are so many movements involved with playing that it helps to make them stronger, greater motor skills, and more endurance.

I watch my kids walk up and down the hill in our backyard, riding their bikes down or sledding down in the winter. They climb on the giant jungle gym in our yard. They swing, climb the trees, play chase, explore the woods, and exert more physical activity than they would if they sat around all day.

2. Increases Self-Confidence

Kids need time and opportunities to feel good about themselves; we all need that. When your child plays, whether alone or with a group, they face challenges, and they will succeed in some of those challenges. That makes your child feel great about himself.

When your child is little, everything is a cause for celebration. Your child might build an impressive tower of blocks or put on her baby doll’s outfit without any help from you. Perhaps your child learned how to do a handstand or a cartwheel in the backyard.

Kids take risks and accomplish what they wanted to do, gaining self-confidence. Self-confidence is an essential part of life. Your child needs to know that no matter what he faces, he will have the ability to meet it straight forward.

3. Opportunities to Be Creative

When kids are left to be creative and play, you wouldn’t believe what they can develop on their own. They have time to imagine and create.

I remember as a child using sticks, leaves, and mud to create soups and mud pies in my backyard. I often find my two sons outside in a patch of dirt in our backyard digging to find dinosaur bones.

M oldest practices her drawing and art skills, often with different sets of markers and colored pencils. She draws scenes from her favorite books or her imagination.

You might not think of being creative as a skill, but it definitely can be one. Depending on your child’s career choices, employers look for innovative, unique employees who can come up with ideas that no one else has. That’s particularly true in careers such as marketing when companies want their ads to stand out or in the tech scene, developing new apps or graphic design.

4. Increase Vocabulary and Language Skills

Kids develop better language skills when they talk more. If your child participates in pretend play with other kids, you might notice an improvement in their speech as well as a better understanding of the words that they’re saying.

When kids are around other kids, they pick up on language skills. They want to speak the way that their friends talk. Kids are the best mimics of all. They’re like little sponges, picking up new words and phrases all the time.

5. Provides a Way to Express Emotions

Kids feel all of the emotions that we feel, but kids don’t understand yet how to regulate and manage their feelings appropriately. I call them big feelings because their sadness feels magnified compared to what an adult feels.

Playtime gives your child a way to express those emotions. Here is a perfect example.

Let’s say that you took your 3-year-old to the doctor, and he needed a vaccinate. Most kids have no interest in getting a shot, but it’s for the best. He cries, and you hug him, and then you go home. You might think that it’s over, but your child needs to express those emotions.

Later, he wants to play the doctor and give his baby doll a shot. He makes his baby doll cry, and then he comforts his baby. Your child switched roles, sorting out his emotions. He could be the doll and be in control. When kids receive shots or something that made him feel powerless, he needs to take back that emotion.

This can be an excellent tool for parents as well to determine what is bothering their child. A child who is upset may want to act out with his parents what happened to him. A bully at school might be a fight with two dolls!

6. Creates Happier Kids

Ultimately, as parents, our primary goal should be to make sure our kids are as happy as possible. You don’t need to think about whether or not your child will make it into Yale or be the first one in your family with a doctorate.

Instead, we want happy kids who are well-adjusted to life. One of the best ways to ensure your child is pleased is to guarantee they have free playtime each day. Kids love being able to pursue their favorite route to play, enjoying their toys, or having a friend over to ride bikes.

Sometimes, we place other things above happiness, but happiness should never be underrated. It’s the greatest gift of all times and signs of a well-balanced childhood. Remember, your child will forever have the memories of a happy childhood in their mind.

7. Encourages Stress Coping Skills

Stress is a part of life that I wish we could eliminate, but we cannot, so kids need to have stress coping skills. That’s a vital part of life, especially as your child gets older.

When he is older, your child will experience peer pressure, drama with friends, romance problems, stress over grades, and so many other problems. That’s just a fact of life.

Giving your child plenty of time to play helps to rebalance the stress in their lives, helping them cope with the daily pressures. It also gives them a way to release their tension without being penalized.

8. Gives Kids More Social Skills

Believe it or not, being social requires skills. Most kids need ample time to learn how to be sociable and act appropriately in those settings.

Giving your child plenty of playtime with other kids can help to improve their social skills. Take your child to the park or have some friends come down for an hour or so. They learn these skills, whether they are playing near other kids or with other kids.

Kids need this time to teach them how to share, how to work together, and how to be a friend. Give and take relationships are part of life, and this is how your child learns how those more complex relationships develop.

9. Kids Pursue Their Interests

Last but not least, playtime gives your child a chance to do whatever interests him. Whatever he does when he is playing is up to him. If your child wants to sing, she can sing. If she wants to play Barbies or baby dolls, she can. If he wants to set up a dinosaur war zone, he can do that too.

This is the best for kids to explore all of their interests and find other ones as well. Over time, some interests will fade while some will become lifelong interests. Pay attention to what your child finds interesting.

How Much Time Should My Child Play Each Day?

There are so many different recommendations for how much time a child should play each day, but typically, kids need at least 60 minutes of free playtime. That doesn’t include structured playtime.

Truth be told, kids need more playtime, not less playtime. Unfortunately, due to screen time and busy schedules, kids only spend about 4 hours a week outside playing. That’s compared to the 8+ hours that are ideal for kids.

Researchers recommend that preschoolers spend 90 to 120 minutes participating in gross motor activities daily. They also suggest that preschoolers go outside twice per day.

Can My Child Play Too Much?

The short answer is no, your child cannot play too much. Kids need to play for dozens of reasons, such as brain development, social skill development, and so much more that we covered above. If your kid finds certain activities exciting and wants to play for longer, then let him play as long as you can.

That doesn’t mean the same thing can be said for screentime, which can be played too much.

How Can We Help Our Children Play More?

Do you find that your child is sucked into screentime and not playing much? Perhaps you feel as if your child needs to play more. You can do things to help your child play more, but it might require a bit of detoxing from screens. Here are some suggestions.

1. Set a Strict Limit to Screens

The first thing that you should do is set a limit to screens in the house. Typically, no more than one hour per day is recommended for young kids. You can extend that for your older kids. Try to keep the TV off; try playing music instead to fill the silence if that bothers you.

2. Take Your Child Outside 2 Times Per Day

Kids need to spend time outside, but research shows up that kids don’t spend enough time on there. That’s unfortunate because kids miss so many opportunities by not being outside.

Take your child outside each day. That could be a trip to the park, a bike ride, a walk around the block, or just sitting outside and letting him run around. Take walks through the woods and encourage him to explore the woods as well on his own, depending on his age.

3. Invest in Open-Ended Toys

Ditch those toys that drive you nuts, lighting up, and talking. Instead, look for open-ended toys that give your child the chance to use his imagination.

Every child needs to have play food, so grab some sets. Your child can make your dishes. Blocks are a must-have for all kids, and you can get legos for older kids. There is an endless of options, but your child needs these toys to dive back into playing. It doesn’t have to be expensive; ask your friends and family for hand-me-down toys!

4. Show Him How to Play

If your child hasn’t played in a while, you might need to show him how it’s done. That might involve bringing kids over to play with him or you playing instead.

Show him how to play restaurant or play kitchen. Build towers of blocks and knock them over. Create a route of train tracks or whatever your child thinks is fun.

5. Keep Art Supplies Stocked and Accessible

Art supplies are a must-have for your child. If you want your child to play more, keep art supplies stocked and accessible for your child. He can make collages, draw pictures, or make a new masterpiece for the fridge. Art supplies are necessary to build that budding artist and pursue creative endeavors.

The Stages of Play

Play develops in different stages, like everything else for your child. How your child plays depends heavily on his age. That’s why you need to understand these stages to know precisely where your child is right now.

At birth, your child doesn’t do much playing, or it doesn’t look like he is playing as an outside observer. Your baby makes movements with no rhyme or reason. He might turn his head from side to side, swing his arms around, or kick his feet.

These movements might be random, but this is considered a type of play. They help assist your child as he gets older and moves to different types of play.

Solitary play is most popular with toddlers. They play by themselves, as the name implies, and it’s ideal for shy kids or those with undeveloped communication skills. Until a child has better communication skills, the only child that he or she may engage in play with would be siblings.

Solitary play is crucial for a child’s development and your sanity! Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves; that’s a skill we all want our kids to develop. You don’t want a child that always must be entertained by other people or by electronics. They need to be able to do that for themselves!

Solitary play is most popular with toddlers. They play by themselves, as the name implies, and it’s ideal for shy kids or those with undeveloped communication skills. Until a child has better communication skills, the only child that he or she may engage in play with would be siblings.

Solitary play is crucial for a child’s development and your sanity! Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves; that’s a skill we all want our kids to develop. You don’t want a child that always must be entertained by other people or by electronics. They need to be able to do that for themselves!

Parallel play starts around 2-years-old, and it can last for years. This is when two or more kids play in the same room nearby, but they aren’t playing with each other. It’s similar to an imitation while they play separately. They know what each other is doing and might try to mirror the same actions without playing together.

One thing that parallel play is incredible for is learning about manners, taking turns, and being kind to each other while playing. Kids see what the other person is doing. They hear that their friend says please and thank you, and your child will mimic what he sees and hears.

As your child gets older, he will switch to associate play. This style of play has some similarities to parallel play because the kids still play separately at times. The main difference is that, while they are playing individually, the kids are working towards a common goal.

During associate play, the kids work on their tasks, talking and socializing together. Kids learn how to form and keep friendships when they use associate play.

Once your child reaches four years old and above, they start to engage in cooperative play. It’s sort of like a blend of all the stages when everything that they’ve learned before comes together to be the end-all stage of playing.

When your child switches over to cooperative play, you’ll notice that the kids start to share more toys, and they come up with rules for their play. Kids start to make real friends during this time, and you might notice that they have favorite friends even in preschool and kindergarten.

Are Toys Necessary for Playing?

You might wonder if your kids NEED toys for playing. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no when it comes to kids. The key is picking helpful toys that provide stimulation and the opportunity for imaginative play without becoming developmentally disruptive.

Parents often pick out the toys on the “must-have toy list” for whatever year. These toys are often expensive and flashy, but that doesn’t mean they’re helpful or handy to your kids. Talking or lighting up toys aren’t always the best choice for your kids.

Are you wondering why talking and singing toys aren’t ideal for kids?

These toys do the talking for your child! Research shows that these loud toys often cause kids to become quieter. Babies don’t typically talk when they play with electronic toys when they do need to work on their language development.

You probably think that these toys are boring, right?

There are differences in toys. Those toys that have lights, voices, or music are considered entertaining toys. They amuse your child and keep your child occupied.

Play toys keep your child’s mind engaged and curious. Your child uses their imagination to come up with pretend play.  An example of play toys would be a play kitchen with food. Your child makes up recipes, makes your dinner, serves your lunch, and more. He is engaging in creative pretend play.

How to Pick the Best Toys for Your Kids

Are you on the lookout for the best toys or your kids? As I mentioned before, that’s not merely about picking the toys on the “best of” or “must-have” lists. You need to think strategically about what you want to find.

Here are some simple guidelines.

1. Multi-tasking Toys

Look for toys that your child can use in multiple ways. Examples are things such as wooden blocks. You can build hundreds of different structures, create games with them, and use your child’s imagination.

2. Toys That Last for Several Ages

Have you ever purchased a nice toy for your child to only like it for a few weeks? Not only is that a waste of money and a disappointment, but it was a waste of an opportunity to purchase lasting toys.

Look for toys that grow with your child for ages. My kids all love play kitchens; they’re a must-have toy for us. Dollhouses are essential toys, as well as trains, action figures, toy animal figures, and baby dolls. These toys are open-ended with plenty of potential for imaginative play.

3. Require Problem Solving and Exploration

Even if your child gets frustrated at times, kids need and enjoy figuring things out on their own. Problem-solving is suitable for their brains, leading to a sense of accomplishment.

What are some examples of problem-solving toys?

Puzzles are perfect for little kids. You can find chunky puzzles with pegs for toddlers and more advanced puzzles for older kids. Nesting cups are a classic toy for toddlers, as well as shape sorters for toddlers.

4. Use Imaginations

You want to get your child’s imagination rolling and moving. Kids are full of creativity, and you don’t want to waste all of that creativity. Toddlers can create some of the most fascinating games.

It’s an endless possibility of toys that use imagination. Kids love to dress up in different clothes. He can be a pirate, a firefighter, or whatever makes him excited. Other toys like dolls, stuffed animals, pretend food, or animal figures give your child the chance to make their games.

My girls love to pretend to be a mom; it’s so sweet. They feed their dolls, give them bottles, change their diapers, and tuck them into their cribs. My boys enjoy taking their dinosaur toys and creating little war zones. The big dinosaurs eat the little ones. It might be brutal, but they have fun making all of the sounds and pretending.

5. Toys That Get Your Kid Moving

You want your child to be active, getting up, and moving around. Not only is it good for their physical health, but the active play is essential to boost brainpower and strengthen their bodies.

Tricycles are a must-have for all kids. Your toddlers can start to learn how to ride a bike with the trikes. Another example is basketball hoops. You can find small ones for toddlers and larger hoops for your older kids. Try scooters as well. All of my kids have scooters by the time they are two years old.

6. Can Be Used for More Than One Generation

Sometimes you want to play with your kids, or their grandparents want to as well. Board games and card games are ideal for multi-generational play. Playing board games with family members encouragings taking turns and learning how to listen. It also models how to lose gracefully without being a sore loser.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play engages and uses their five senses to learn about the world around them as well as whatever they’re doing at that moment. Children love sensory play; it’s instinctive for them to engage in this style, even babies.

Babies pick up their toys and put them into their mouths. They suck on their fingers and toys, and they love all things with different textures. Babies are happy to rub something they find soft or rough.

Sensory plenty involves sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste. You don’t have to use all of the senses, but typically, this style of play uses at least two to three senses at a time.

Engaging in sensory play encourages investigation and exploration while building nerve connections within their brains. At the same time, children develop their language skills and learn how to problem-solve. Plus, sensory play is seriously fun!

4 Tips for Sensory Play with Your Child

1. Make a Sensory Bin

When it’s raining outside, and you want to give your child some sensory playtime, make sensory bins. These can be made with a plastic box (with a lid), a bag of rice or dried beans, and toys such as scoops, funnels, measuring cups, and other items. My kids love to drive their little cars through the rice in the bins.

2. Always Watch Your Child

Remember how I said that babies putting their hands and objects into their mouths is a form of sensory play? Well, you still need to watch your child to be sure there are no choking hazards. Toddlers and even preschoolers are known to put objects into their mouths, so supervise sensory play.

3. Wear Old Clothes

It’s no doubt that sensory play can be messy. Finger painting, play dough, mud, water, and more create quite crazy messes. Always dress your child in clothes that you don’t care about or play clothes. You don’t want to ruin clothes!

4. Go Outside

Sensory play typically involves water or mud, and it’s best to take the activities outside if you want to contain the messes. Otherwise, you’ll spend more time cleaning up the messes than your child made to play with them.

What is Pretend Play?

Kids pretend all of the time, at school, home, and everywhere that they go. Typically, pretend play has two different parts: fantasy play and sociodramatic play.

Fantasy play starts around two years old and reaches its peak when your child reaches preschool age. During this play, your child won’t stay in character and likes to update you or keep you involved in their game.

When your child gets older, he switches to sociodramatic play, which is when your child is fully invested in his role. If your child is a princess, she is a princess for the day. If your child is a firefighter, he might create a massive story about someone he rescued or a cat that was stuck in the tree.

The Benefits of Pretend Play

You know that pretend play is beneficial, but you might not realize just how awesome it is for kids.

  • Increases Social Skills: Pretend play is one of the best types of play to encourage social skills. Kids pretend to be other characters, focusing on how each other feels.
  • Inclusive: Pretend play is quite inclusive by its nature. You can create different roles for others in their stories. They see how to include others and play with them together, and how it’s god o do so.
  • Leads to Cognitive Development: Through pretend play, children learn how the world around them works, drawing logical conclusions. It’s a process of development and growth that kids need as they get older.
  • Teaches about Emotions: When kids roleplay, it teaches them about emotions, which are lessons that they can use for the rest of their life. It also teaches kids how to express their feelings correctly.

Constructive Play

When your kids use different materials and toys around them to build and create things, it’s called constructive play. Around two years old, this type of play kicks in because a child’s attention span starts to become longer. They finally have enough concentration to play with a single kind of toy for more extended periods.

The Benefits of Constructive Play

Constructive play is fun for all ages, and it has dozens of benefits. Here are a few that make a massive difference for your child.

  • It encourages abstract thinking skills and creativity.
  • Your child has a better understanding of the world around him.
  • This type of play gets your child ready for future developmental milestones.
  • Your child gains confidence in their skills and ability to figure things out.
  • It gives them a chance to practice perseverance when their ideas don’t turn out the way that they hoped they would.

Outside Play

Kids need to be outside; it’s vital for their mental and physical development. Chances are you have fond memories playing outside for hours until the sun goes down. Playing outside is an essential part of childhood and development.

Outside play requires your child to get up ad move around while playing and exploring. Kids develop new skills or enhance current ones.

This type of play develops at all ages. Even babies and toddlers can get outside and play, and they can practice physical play inside of their homes, strengthening their muscles and burning off some of their endless energy.

The Benefits of Outside Play

Outside, or physical, play comes with dozens of benefits. It’s impossible to list them all, but here are some of the critical things you need to remember about this type of play.

  • Physical play helps to fight childhood obesity, which is rampant in society today. Did you know that 1 in 3 kids are obese in the United States?
  • It helps to keep our children healthy and at an appropriate weight for their age and height. Spending time outside playing improves their overall health, strengthening their hearts, and reducing the risk of diabetes.
  • Spending time outside reduces stress and anxiety, giving your child a physical outlet for their emotions.
  • Kids feel a sense of accomplishment, building their self-confidence when they master new things. They might master the monkey bars, climb to the top of the jungle gym, or swing higher than before.
  • Physical play helps your child gain physical strength and improve their gross motor skills.
  • Playing outside gives them a way to assess risks. For example, he might think about what could happen if he decides to jump off the swings. That doesn’t mean your child will always pick the safer route, but chances are he will know there is a risk.

How Much Time Should Your Child Have Outside?

How much time your child needs to have outside each day varies based on the different recommendations you read. Some state that kids need to have one to two hours outside each day or at least one to two hours of physical activity per day.

Other recommendations say that kids need to be outside for at least four hours, but that can be very difficult for the working family or for kids who are in school.

So, the best thing to do is to let your child be outside for as long as they want to be out. Don’t discourage physical play inside of your home, either. See if you can find a spot for children to ride their scooters or skate, such as an empty garage or basement.

The Dangers of Too Much Screen Time

Most parents have heard about the dangers of giving your child too much screen time. Kids (and adults) are easily sucked into too much screen time. That can be time spent watching television, gaming systems, tablets, and phones.

Screen time takes away from their playtime and drowns their imagination. Kids don’t need to use their imagination to play a video game as they would if you play with blocks or Legos.

The Final Words

Playtime for kids is more than just your child having fun with toys. It’s necessary for the mental development of your child. Without play, your child’s cognitive skills and motor skills will never have the chance to develop as they should.

If you want your child to develop properly, then you need to give your child multiple hours of playtime each day. Take your child outside each day and make sure he has time to work on play without any structures or rules. Also, be sure that he has time to play with friends to work on social skills.

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