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The Importance of Play at Any Age

If I asked you to define ‘play’ what would you say? Is it only for kids? How do you think it benefits a small human to play? What about a big human? It’s no secret that kids like to play, in fact, they need to play, so do adults. Shouldn’t there be a way to include play in our lives so that we are just more relaxed human beings? Play is important to build and promote fine and gross motor skills, communication and social emotional skills in children. It’s during playtime when a child learns the rules of their home and society in general. They learn to interact with others and think critically across situations. They even learn how to become independent thinkers, learn about consequences and how to make decisions. Think about it, children are born problem solvers…they have to learn everything. “I have my kids in soccer, martial arts, a group at the library, drama camp and her brother is just as busy, isn’t that enough?” Structured activities – such as playing on a sports team – are good to help with certain skills but kids are often limited in their abilities to foster independent thinking. Too many structured activities can actually cause more stress on your child and family. Unstructured play activities are where children learn to use their own abilities to create and solve problems independent of adult instructions and it reduces stress. Activities like building blanket forts, playing house, playing on the playground, etc. are considered unstructured activities. The unstructured activities don’t always involve adults; it’s up to the child. When is the last time you played with your child, and I mean physically got down on the ground and played? If it was recently, I applaud you. If not, do better. There are a ton of activities that you can do inexpensively. Remember, it’s the time spent with them that counts. Blowing bubbles for instance, you can make them at home with household supplies and have a great time together. You can have a water fight with water balloons or water guns. Blanket forts, they don’t cost anything and you can have movie time, a picnic, or camp out in one together. Roughhousing is great for building communication skills and teaching boundaries. If you aren’t the creative type, there are millions of ideas on websites like Pinterest. Many of us are working parents and may find it difficult to find extra time in our busy schedules to play (and then do it without feeling guilty). Remember this, playtime doesn’t have to last all day, just 30 minutes can help create a stronger, healthier bond, lasting memories and decrease stress levels in the entire family. Makes it sound awesome, right? That’s because it is! A couple of rules when playing with your kids: • Play on their terms, ask them your role and the rules. • Remember to leave your adult rules outside of the play (be a kid, forget your limitations). • Cell phones are turned off, or silenced, and left in the other room. • Watching a TV show or movie doesn’t count as play. • Enjoy your child! Watch and listen, you will gain a better understanding of your child through play. Play isn’t just important for kids, it’s just as imperative that adults play too, though it may look different. Adults need play to relieve stress, socialize, and/or decompress. Play may be a night out with the girls, hanging with the guys, date night, or finding a hobby (model cars, knitting, riding horses, paintball, water gun fights). When adults take time out to play, it increases their pleasure with life and makes them more pleasant. It gives couples new things to talk about, strengthens the relationship and can rekindle the romance. Playtime for adults may need to be scheduled; many of us are more inclined to complete the activity if it’s planned, which means at least monthly, you should have playtime on your schedule just as you would a doctor’s appointment. If there’s something you want to do and haven’t ... get to it! If you’re afraid at first, find someone to go with you. If you don’t have many friends, find some common interest groups, shows or conferences. With all of that being said, whether you’re 6 or 86, what are you waiting for?

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