Stop entertaining! Free play is actually beneficial. Here are 5 Amazing Reasons Why Free Play Is Vital for Kids.
Do you remember your childhood? I sure remember mine! I used to ride my bike around the neighborhood, climb trees, and play in the backyard with my sister and friends. I didn’t have an iPad, or video games, or any electronic device that I was attached to for hours every day. My parents were not telling what to do or interfering when I was playing at all times. Free, unplanned and spontaneous play. Those are my childhood GREAT memories.
These days, play has become a lot more structured. As parents, we organize playdates, fill timetables with activities and classes and even, in the spirit of helicopter parenting, tend to interfere when our children play with other children, breaking up disagreements, meddling – no letting them figure things out for themselves and moving on.
However, more and more experts are pointing out that free play is vital for kids. And that, as parents, we need to get better at facilitating it. We do not need to play with our children and entertain them all the time!
In fact, free play, play that is devoid of parental interruption and rules, is critically important for the development of children’s bodies and brains in so many ways.
5 Amazing Reasons Why Free Play Is Vital for Kids
1. It changes brain structure
Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play recently noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.
Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children get to practice different activities during play and see what happens.
2. It activates the entire neocortex
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different areas of the brain, and, in a study on rats, activated the outer part of the brains known as the neocortex, also known as the area used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning.
3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others
Previously, experts thought play, to animals, was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp’s study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: it teaches young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. In fact, he believed that play helps build pro-social brains.
4. Children who play often do better in school
The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students, studies have found. In fact, research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child’s social skills in the third grade. Intrestingly, Dr. Pellis noted that “countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less.”
5. It gets kids moving
In a world where we are all getting less and less physical activity, unstructured play often involves moving the whole body around.
Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes by increasing the body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin.
We should really reflect on these 5 Reasons Why Free Play Is Vital for Kids and just let our kids play. Do you agree? How often do you let your kids play freely?
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