Playing with your child is one of those things we often take for granted. How often do we say that our children are “just” playing? But play is how children learn about the world around them.
Here are 5 reasons why play is important for your child’s development.
1: Play helps build communication skills
Your child learns how to express themselves when they play. They can role play different situations and learn ways to communicate with their friends and adults.
By playing games, children use their imaginations and think creatively. They make connections between different ideas and solve problems. This all helps them become better communicators.
Ideas for communication games:
- Role play activities
- Board games like Scrabble or Pictionary
- Traditional games like The Minister’s Cat, Simon Says, or Mother May I?
2: Playing creates connection
Playing together gives us time to talk as a family, express our feelings, and become closer as a family. You can build strong connections with your child and better understand their interests and emotions when you play together.
Ideas for games to play as a family:
- Lego and construction toys
- Toy cars and figures
- Tea sets
- Role playing/ make-believe games
- Arts and craft, like painting or making salt dough
3: They learn to cope with difficult emotions
Children have to learn how to deal with difficult emotions like disappointment, envy, and frustration. Playing is a great way to encounter these feelings so they can learn how it feels and develop coping strategies.
When children play, they make mistakes they can learn from, because it’s not the end of the world. They can see we don’t expect them to always get things right, or only love them when they’re behaving perfectly.
How to teach your child to lose:
- Gradually increase how often they experience losing in games
- Focus on team efforts
- Talk about sharing and turn taking rather than trying to win
- Praise their efforts rather than being the winner
- Practise congratulating the loser and winner politely so your child has a script to follow
- Be a role model so they can see how you cope with disappointment
- Empathise with how they’re feeling and name the emotion they’re experiencing
4: Play builds social skills
Through play, children learn how to cooperate with others and interact with the world around them. They have to master sharing and turn taking, and learn how to be a “good loser”.
Ideas for games that improve social skills:
- Team games like Charades
- Listening games, like “Simon Says,” and “Red Light-Green Light”
- Board games
- Relay races
5: It keeps them healthy
Games are the best way to keep our bodies and brains healthy. Rather than forcing children to do more exercise, make it fun with active games that get them outside and into the fresh air. Playing actively will help them get a good night’s sleep and improve their appetite.
Ideas for games that boost health:
- Playing ball games like football, tennis or simple catching games
- Going to the park
- Nature trails
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Chasing games like “tag” and “off-ground-it”
- NHS shake-up games with Marvel, Disney and Pixar characters
Play is about more than buying toys
Playing isn’t just about buying toys and games, after-school clubs, and expensive activities. It’s simply valuing time spent playing together as a family.
A game of football in the garden, a toy’s tea party, time spent painting and crafting together is important, and it doesn’t need to cost a penny.
For further support, here’s where to go next:
- Check out our free video series about the power of play after our experiences of COVID.
- Explore other resources in our Friendships and Bullying Collection
- Browse our range of popular parenting classes to tackle problem behaviour, improve communication, and work together as a family.