Fact File: Why Play is Important

by Parents for Health Team on July 27, 2011

Girl on Swing

Active play is an excellent way for children to be active!

Play is essential for kids of all ages. To be technical about it, play contributes to the physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. Active play, when kids run about, climb, play sport and generally horse around together, is the best of all – active play keeps kids active, which is essential for good health.

Even though unstructured play is one of the best ways for children to be active, children nowadays lead increasingly ordered and prearranged lives.

Physical activity happens as part of formal training sessions – dance, PE & sport “training”, rather than informal kick-abouts, tree climbing or role playing games.

Play at School

Schools receive little help regarding play, even though for many children, school playtime is the only opportunity they get for unstructured play. Any playground worth the name needs to be an inspiring place. Equipment like skipping ropes and balls should be provided, and adults should model good play behaviour by getting involved, rather than just acting as supervisors.

Play at Home

Children need and want the freedom of real play rather than virtual entertainment and passive TV time. At home, parents are often “too busy” to play with their children. Parental concern, while sometimes justified, may lead us to be over-protective. Can you imagine a childhood without muddy knees or grazed palms?

All work and no play certainly makes for a dull life. Children need real play, and adults need to set the scene so that children can lead their own play activities. If not, we are in danger of losing childhood altogether.

Get Them Outside

Running around outside like lunatics will help your children to blow off steam, and they’ll be much calmer when you get them back inside. Don’t panic if they get wet and mucky, you can always warm them up in the bath when they come back indoors.

Beat the Weather

The weather can often be “unpredictable”, “unsettled” or even “changeable”, but unless you’re planning a move to Australia, you’d better get used to it. As comedian Billy Connolly once said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing!”. So get yourself and the kids some waterproof clothes.

Supervise from a Distance

It’s understandable in this day and age if you don’t want to let younger children play completely unsupervised, but adults can supervise unobtrusively. Let the kids lead the way.

Join In!

Remember that you’re never too old to have fun playing with your kids. The activity will benefit you, and you’ll end up feeling invigorated. Playing together really is “quality” time with the kids. So instead of getting stressed about them bouncing around inside and wrecking the house, go out and play chase, or teach them a game from your own childhood.

Do you have any interesting tips to share about children and play? What games do your children play? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments box below.

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