The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is often quoted as having said “play is the work of children.”
Play is important for the mental, emotional, and physical development of children, adults, and families.
When children are allowed ample time and room to play, it helps to spark their imagination and creativity, allowing them to learn and develop new skills and traits at their own pace. Play also helps children stay active which is important for their physical health and development. Every minute that they spend in active play, whether indoors or outdoors, is a minute that is not spent in poor posture poring over homework or slouching over a tablet or in front of a video game. This is especially important while their bones and muscles are still developing as abnormal postures assumed during this stage of development have the potential to become permanent.
Play is great for adults too, but for different reasons. As adults, most of our movements take place in one plane. We walk and climb stairs in one direction. We sit, hunched forward, over our desks at work. When we go for a run or walk our dog or push our kids in a stroller, we are again moving in that forward direction. The muscles that control our lateral movements become weakened. One day we reach to the side to lift a small book and out of the blue, throw something into spasm and we can’t figure out why. Part of the reason is that we don’t spend enough time in all planes of movement unless we make the conscious effort to do so. Play allows us to expand our movements into those other planes, making us less susceptible to injury, not to mention reducing our physical and emotional stress and fatigue.
Jumping. Reaching. Throwing a ball. Climbing. Spinning a hula hoop. All of these things challenge our bodies in other planes than the one we typically move in and may, over time, restore some balance and stability to our bodies, making us overall healthier.
Finally, play is important for families. Bonding, conversation, and mutual respect are all built during shared activities. Memories are formed, and children are shown a great example of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
For the sake of your children, your family, and yourself, make time to get out and play.