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The Value of Playing in a Child's Development

For those of us who have kids or know children, it certainly seems like toys and the idea of play has changed. Children's entertainment has taken on a much more passive role, when in our day play was all about imagination and creativity. For example, we'd play dress up or various role playing games, and we'd use the toys we did have in completely creative, loosely structured fun. Nowadays it seems that traditional play where you create a story has been left behind, what with video games and other passive entertainments.

Of course, I don't mean to sound like an old fogey by belittling a new generation of toys, but it's hard to disagree with the importance of active play for a child's development. In fact, classic toys and games are still very much the basis for learning and growing. They can have the occasional video game, but make sure to also include, especially when they are very young, these classic toys for development. Remember, playing is as important as outright learning, such as learning a new language and engaging in sports, and can really help our children excel.

Below Helene Goldnadel explains why "play" is so important for development.

1) Play can be a precursor to important socialization skills that children learn through sports. Here they learn how to be part of a team, be disciplined, and learn about competitiveness. Leading an active life before they are old enough to play organized sports can begin this process. These basic activities include things such as running outside, playing hide and seek, or playing hopscotch. Healthy bodies help create healthy minds, so we should never underestimate the power of physical activity, even if it does just look like "play."

2) Play is also very important when it comes to the development of creativity. The ability to create their own universe is important for children. For example, children can be the teacher instead of the student. They can research a tropical jungle while surrounded by stuffed lions and stuffed tigers. Or they can be Snow White with all her enchanted forest animals (plush toys of course) waiting for Prince Charming. With the creativity to impersonate and create their own scenario's, children can explore future interests or even future careers. Creating their own characters and stories is a great way to grow their imaginations in way that is better than just watching television or playing a video game where the stories, pictures, and characters are already there. Also, many of these imaginative games are much less violent then television or video games, so the child can grow and develop in a way that's much more harmonious.

3) Play also develops social skills and teaches a child how to relate to others. For example, maybe the child is pretending they're in a jungle with a stuffed tiger. Not only does this help them learn about nature, it also teaches them how to interact with others. Children who play together, whether they are jumping rope or having fun with that stuffed tiger have to set ground rules and boundaries as they pretend in order to share a world. In this way, children learn how to depend on and interact with each other.

Remember, playing is very vital to the development of a child. Play teaches them how to cope with the world, learn how to interact with others and be more creative. The occasional video game is fine, but we should make sure children learn the basics of play. And we can help do this by joining in the fun. Whether we decide to play the damsel in distress or the monster that's chasing them around, we can be a part of the play and development. Remember, these memories will be cherished far more than any television show or video game.

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