March Break starts today, which means that many Toronto kids are gearing up to enjoy some time away from school. When you’re deciding what to do while class is out, we’d like to suggest that you opt for less rather than more. Whether you have a baby, a toddler, a preschooler or a school-age child, play is important. While kids are having fun, they’re also learning, growing and developing. It turns out that play is serious business. You might have heard all of this before, but whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth, we can all use a reminder about the importance of play from time to time.
The Importance of Play for Children
Deborah MacNamara, PhD of the Neufeld Institute writes of the importance of play, “These times are critical for brain development as it is where children form neural networks that are involved in problem solving and creativity. Children who lack environments that foster play actually have brains that are 20 to 30% less developed in capacity. Play is not empty time; it is how children build the brains that are required for work and learning.” She goes on to say that the best kind of play – emergent play – allows the child to draw on their own energy to create and explore.
When children play they’re exploring the world from a child’s point of view. They try on different roles – parent, teacher, friend, space alien, super-spy. They form bonds with others, including you. They use their imaginations, conduct experiments, and enhance their physical development. They work through their emotions and confront their fears in a safe space they create. Building a giant block tower requires fine motor skills and planning. Role-playing requires children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Playing with someone else requires negotiation and teamwork.
Sounds Great … How do I do It?
As you can see, the importance of play for children can’t be underestimated. For parents, however, the question often arises of just how to facilitate play. We all lead busy lives, after all. And let’s be honest – sometimes we’re just not up for playing the same game for the 12th time in a row. Plus, many of us feel as if we’ve forgotten how to play, and many kids can be pretty unforgiving when you play ‘wrong’. What’s a parent to do?
First of all, cut yourself some slack. As a parent your main job is to create an environment that enables play. That means making sure your kids are fed and rested, provided open-ended toys and turning off the TV and computer. This is play, it doesn’t have to be hard. Pull out some boxes and blocks and maybe your dress-up bin, and you’re most of the way there. It’s great to spend some time playing with your kids on a regular basis, but it can be as little as 15 or 20 minutes. Taking a few minutes on your child’s level, playing a game they want to play, will help you feel connected and fill your child’s emotional cup without draining yours. Who knows? You may even re-discover the importance of play for yourself.
This article was sponsored by Dune Kids – a Creative Play Centre with a World theme. Integrating art, play, learning and culture in a vibrant space designed to serve young families and bring the community together. Children can enjoy being active, creative and learn about the world, while parents can enjoy a class with their young ones, shop at the mall or have coffee with a friend. Dune Kids wishes to inspire children to explore different world cultures through art, play and stories in a safe, stimulating and enriching environment. Dune Kids provides Art Workshops as well as structured and enriched activities for children on a flexible basis that makes it easy for families to participate on their own preferred schedule. We also host fun and creative two hour birthday parties with private use of our beautiful facility!
Dune Kids is located inside the Promenade Shopping Centre, on the lower level next to Sears. See you there soon!