The Importance Of Playtime | How To Have A Year Full of Play

the importance of playtime-a family playing with wooden building blocks together

Why is playtime so important? In this article, we will look at both the importance of playtime and building habits for a year full of more play. 

So, why do kids need more playtime? Play or playtime enables them to be free-spirited, creative, and flexible thinkers. It unleashes their imaginations and allows them to engage in pure, self-directed, free-flowing fun. When it comes to children’s growth and development, play is essential!

There are many types of play. Whether you engage in imaginative play, free play, constructive playexploratory playcreative play, outdoor play, or block play. The benefits of play are undeniable!

What is the importance of play in early childhood? It has been proven that play adds lasting social, emotional, mental, and physical benefits to children and adults! Play is a stress reducer and creates connection. The benefits of play in early childhood are reason enough to incorporate daily healthy habits of play, but it is even more critical during these challenging times.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published policy statements that address theย importance of play, screen time for children, and the types of toys that support our children’s growth and development.

How can we make this year healthier, happier, impactful, and more meaningful? Sure better food choices and exercise are important, but one thing to add is more playtime!

Are you asking yourself, “How do I add more play?” Where will I get more time?” The beauty of play is, the more you do it, the easier it gets and the happier you will be.

Could you use a little more play in your life?

Here are 6 daily habits to improve life for a healthier, happier year full of more play.

Prioritize Play

First, what is play? It can be defined as a fun, voluntary, and spontaneous activity the results in joyful discovery. While we all have busy schedules and daily responsibilities, it is vital to find small pockets of time daily to play.

The characteristics of play include spontaneity; however, you may be out of practice. If you haven’t played in a while, you may have to schedule it until it becomes a daily healthy habit. It is essential to calendar playtime for the family, just like we do for other important aspects of our lives. Follow your child’s lead; they are naturals at play.

Let play be a time for fun, creativity, and daydreaming.

Create weekly family time to play together, whether going for a bike ride, a hike, enjoying some outdoor activities, doing crafts, playing games, or engaging in block activities.

Add a monthly themed night, like breakfast-for-dinner, taco night, or pizza night, and have the kids help prep. Make it a regular family fun activity.

Create Screen-Free Zones and Limit Screen Time

Looking for ways to add more time to play? The easiest way is by limiting screen time. Many of us spend way too much time in front of our screens watching TV or mindlessly scrolling through news and social media. 

To help navigate more time, create a family plan of when and where devices may be used. For example, no devices during dinner, while doing homework, or the last hour before bedtime. 

Then use this hour before bed to wind down from the day as a family. Spend time reading together or individually, playing board games, or doing puzzles. Not only are you spending time connecting, but it sets everyone up to sleep well and wake up well-rested. 

For children 2 to 5 years of age, the AAP recommends limiting screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming. 

Read more media recommendations for young minds.

Connect with your family through play

Now that you have prioritized play, reduced screen use, and created more time for play, how should you use that time? Make the importance of playtime an opportunity to connect, interact, and engage with your child. 

Expose them to various home experiences like storytelling, cooking, music, art, and dance. Tell stories or have them tell you a story. Keep things open without an agenda. Just read, talk, or sing together. 

One fun activity is to create a maze using giant building blocksThe kids and adults can move forward or backward through it. Try having a relay contest. Have the kids roll balls or drive their cars and trucks through it. Engaging in more play does not have to be expensive.

One of our family’s favorite simple activities is turning on some music and having a dance party. For special occasions, grab a few glow sticks and turn off the lights. Spend time with your children, playing, connecting, and listening to them. 

Have you noticed how your child lights up when they hear one of their favorite songs?

“Engaged play increases your happiness, aligns you with your deepest needs, and is a huge predictor of your well-being.”

– Kathleen Alfano –
importance of playing with your child-mother and daughter cooking together

Read more about the power of play from the AAP.  

Provide Plenty Of Free Playtime

The one positive thing that many of us experienced during this past year was fewer scheduled activities. While it may have been frustrating at first, it allowed our children more free time to play!

Don’t be too quick to fill that time up or feel the need to be your child’s activities director. Children need free time to be creative and to use their imaginations. Ensure they have plenty of free, unstructured playtime.

Most important, kids need to learn how to be masters of their own lives and discover solutions to their problems. This leads us to the next daily healthy habit.

Foster Independent Play

With more free playtime, nurture all types of play, especially independent, hands-on, and imaginative play. Encourage your children to experiment with new things, to question, and to explore. Just remember it is for them to discover and not for you to chart all their activities. It has been said,

“Kids need time to be bored; That is how creativity is born.”

– Melanie Jean Juneau –
imaginative play- young boy playing outside creating a pretend campfire

In addition to more time for play, make available open-ended toys that can be used in multiple ways, and inspire imagination and creativity. 

Read more from the AAP about toys that support open-ended play. 

importance of playing with your child

This brings us to the final daily healthy habit. Appreciate and model the importance of playtime. Find a way to include play in everyday activities, whether outdoors or indoors. The activities can be quiet or active, with a group or individually. Play for children (and adults) is critical, so make play a daily healthy habit!

So how are you and your family going to have a more playful year?

What meaningful memories are you going to create?

We would love for you to share your thoughts on our Twitter and Facebook! Use #AYearFullofPlay. #AMorePlayfulYear

Here’s to a healthier, happier year full of more play!

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