Playtime for Kids – Your Ultimate Guide
Ever heard of “”All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”” ?
This single statement conveys a great truth on how important play is in the healthy development of a child. In fact, its importance has been hailed as the right of every child by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. Not only does it contribute to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth, it also helps foster a stronger child-parent bond via parental involvement in different types of play!
So knowing how important playtime is for our kids, why are they playing less and less?
Recent research by The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that playtime has reduced considerably in schools and at home. This is due to academic pressure at school, leading them to focus more on reading and mathematics. Structured extracurricular activities take up even more time to enable you, child, to participate in competitions or excel academically.
At home, parents also focus on more schoolwork or organized activities. their hectic work lifestyles also make it worse as they are too tired to engage in playtime activities with their kids.
In some cases, children are traveling longer and longer hours to get to and from school. their day starts too early and finishes too late. therefore they don’t have much time left are simply too tired to play!
Technology is another culprit! Television, Tablets, phones, or gaming devices like PlayStations are easy baby/child sitters and once it becomes a habit, it’s hard to break out of it !! They restrict your child’s imagination and connectivity with the world and reduces their social skills as well.
Social and environmental factors also play a big factor in restricting a child’s playtime due to poverty or lack of resources
What are the consequences?
As a result of their pressured or hurried lifestyle, Kids are missing out on emotions, social, cognitive, and physical development because they are shortchanging their playtime.
Research has shown that more and more children are getting anxiety and depression. They are constantly feeling uptight and violence has increased in recent years as a result of all these negative emotions.
They are missing out on the balance in life that play provides hence impacting their optimal development of academic, social, and emotional skills that’s needed to equip them to lead us into the future!
So how can we help our children to play more ??
Academic enrichment is important to allow some children to develop their ability to progress academically. Healthy youth development is encouraged through organized structured activities. But play should be included with these activities to allow them to become better well-rounded individuals.
Before we start looking at how to increase our amount of playtime for kids let’s explore some Benefits of Playtime to allow us to better understand how invaluable this time is in our children’s lives
Playtime allows your child to become a well-rounded person emotionally and physically as it helps:
- Develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence, When your kids are playing they are the master of their universe. they control everything in it! This helps bring out their ability to make their own decisions and learn how to better themselves so that they are better equipped to face future challenges.
- To Conquer their fears by creating and exploring a world they can master. Playing encourages imagination and creativity! it helps your child create their own world in which they can do anything. therefore they are in charge and there is no need to fear anyone or anything. At their command, things can be vanquished and vanished! this allows them to feel safe and as they grow older they learn to integrate these feelings into their real lives.
- Build healthy active bodies, all the movements during playtime increase their endurance and develop greater motor skills. A playtime is a good form of exercise as well! it helps to build stronger bones and muscles, improve circulation and blood flow! It also allows them to spend their energy so that they are tired at night and will get better sleep as a result and so do you !!
- Your child can stay out of the obesity zone as well by being active all the time !!
- Playtime allows them to Be happy and feel safe and loved.
- Kids experience real joy while playing their favorite game/s, hanging out with their friends, or just exploring new toys. It allows them to be themselves! when they are included in playtime activities with other kids or parents, they feel wanted and loved. They are accepted as they are! there is no need to pretend!
- It allows them to be caring around others and their environment and learn to share. Children learn how to be in a group of people, how to share activities, time, toys, etc in the group so everyone gets a turn. this increases their decision-making skills and teaches them how to share and care, how to negotiate and resolve conflicts.
- It allows them to Be more social, and upgrade their language and communication skills. Play allows even the less verbose children a way to communicate better with everyone around them. It helps them express their views, feelings, and frustrations. This allows parents/caregivers an opportunity to understand their child better and allows them to offer gentle nurturing guidance suited to their child’s needs.
- Playtime allowed with academic learning enhances social-emotional learning. At school, playtime allows your child to settle in quickly and learn about their surroundings. it helps them become ready to learn, manage themselves socially and enhances their decision-making skills.
The different types of play and how they help your child to achieve their milestones in life!
Now we will explore the different types of play at different stages of your child’s life and how they help your child evolve and upgrade their skills
There are basically two types of play :
Unstructured, free play and Organised, structured play
Unstructured, Free Play
Free, unstructured play is child-driven. your child is exploring their own interests, uses their imagination and creativity, and moves at their own pace. It gives them a sense of freedom and relief from the pressures and stress by allowing them to be just themselves. Examples of free play include playing dress-ups, exploring their home, cupboards, or playground, or simply just playing by themselves with their toys.
Organized, Structured Play
This type of play may be more adult-driven as it happens at a fixed time and a set pace. Organized activities provide developmental benefits for your child as they learn to complete tasks in a certain framework. it increases competitiveness and helps your child to develop optimal skills. Examples of organized play include swimming lessons, dance, drama or music lessons, family board or card games, or sports such as soccer, netball, basketball, baseball, etc.
Your child will go through both types of plays as they grow. It’s important to recognize their capabilities and interests and encourage them to explore and engage in different types of activities so that they develop the best skills.
This video from WFAA shows the importance of playtime for kids.
Play at different stages of life
Newborn and babies – 0 to 12 months old
For the first 3 months, your baby is not able to see clearly so they are mostly observing their surroundings! their best toy is you !! they are learning by just looking at your face, hearing your voice! Their vision is still blurry so toys that are bright or bold patterned are the best. they don’t have to be black and white only. contrasting colors work well too!
As your baby grows, make sure regular tummy time is also a part of your daily routine. this will help your baby strengthen their head, body, and neck muscles and develop movement control. they also see and experience the world from a different perspective while on the floor. other activities and toys include :
- Rattles, musical toys, songs, tapping your baby gently on their tummy while singing, playing “peek-a-Boo” will help them to develop their hearing and movement.
- Brightly colored multi-patterned crib mobiles (useful in the first 3 months- need to remove from the crib before they can sit up), floor gyms, activity boards, teething toys, Soft, colored stuffed toys, or dolls with smiling faces and unbreakable mirrors. These encourage your child to reach and grasp.
- Small stuffed fabric balls, sturdy furniture, toys, or boxes will help your child with crawling, standing up, and walking.
Toddler – 1 to 3-year-old
Toddlers are like sponges. They will absorb everything and anything they are exposed to. their brains are developing at a high speed.
1-year-old ones will love toys that respond to their actions and makes use of their newly acquired motor skills. These include:
- Stacking rings, cardboard boxes, nesting cups, blow up balls, shape sorters, push and pull toys that pop out or make noise. toys like these help your child learn to build, run, pull or drag.
- Hammering sets that allow them to hit a ball or pegs with a hammer through holes
These will help develop their motor skills
- Toys with buttons that cause music to play or characters to pop up, simple musical instruments like tambourines or drums help them explore different types of sounds and rhythms.
- Large play vehicles with little plastic people that ride them, puzzles with 4 or 5 pieces, rubber toys or duck for bath time help with their memory and concentration and encourages imagination.
2 to 3-year-olds need more engaging toys as they have developed their fine motor skills and now move on more pretend play. They like to imitate the actions of others around them so would like high-tech toys that make real sounds such as talking dolls or ringing telephones. This is the age where gender stereotypes may show. girls would like to feed and nap their dolls while boys would scoop up sand with their toy dump truck. While they will still enjoy their push and pull toys You can also introduce ride-on toys. top toys for this age group would include :
- Dolls, stuffed animals, Toy telephones, tea party set, kitchen set, doll stroller. All these help with pretend play and enhances your child’s imagination and creativity.
- Simple puzzles or matching games like animal dominoes will help with memory and concentration.
- Big pillows/cushions, hoops, big rocks, boxes help with climbing, balancing, twisting or swaying skills.
- Balls and frisbees to encourage running, catching, throwing skills.
- Household items like old milk containers, saucepans, old clothes, wooden spoons, plastic buckets encourage free unstructured play and enhance imagination.
- Clay and playdough help tune fine motor skills.
- Ride-on toys and tricycles can help increase mobility and coordination skills.
- Musical instruments that flash or allow them to press a key to play a tune are also very popular in this age group. Music, singing, and dancing helps them feel happier and express themselves non verbally.
Preschoolers ( 4 to 5-year-olds)
Children in this age group are experiencing a tremendous explosion in their learning abilities. They can imagine themselves to be someone else like a teacher, pilot, doctor, or police officer. Therefore we should introduce engaging, educational, and interactive toys and activities to help them develop their imagination and creativity as well as uplift their education and social skills. Examples of these are :
- Blocks of different shapes, construction sets with large pieces ( like LEGO, tents, and boxes encourage them to build
- Dress up clothes, art supplies and craft kits, dolls, action figures, and transportation toys like parking garages, airports or train statins help with imagination and creativity
- Board games that don’t require reading, such as Hungry Hungry Hippos, Yahtzee Jr., or Candyland, and more complex puzzles will help with memory and concentration
- Bicycles with training wheels, scooters, and remote control cars will help with movement and coordination, learning directions, and different speeds
- Games like “ I Spy “ and rhymes improve literacy skills
- Engaging them in simple cooking or food preparation like baking where they measure, stir or serve encourages numeracy and social skills
- Soccer ball, basketball helps with kicking and throwing
- Hills, tunnels, outdoor walks encourage physical activities and helps with exploring abilities
School-Age kids ( 6 to 7-year-olds)
Most kids this age are finding out their own interests while enjoying learning from their teachers or peers. science experiments, making beaded jewelry, or simply playing with dolls may be popular with some while others will start getting into computer games. Friends will also start featuring more in their lives and they may want a toy or join an activity just because their friends have it !! More sleepovers, play dates featuring board games, sports, card games, etc also start happening at this age.
The most popular activities or toys for this age group includes:
- Magnets, magnifying glasses, telescopes, basic science kits. these help with their exploring abilities and helps educate them about the world around them
- Board games like Chess and Checkers help them evolve their strategy skills as well as concentration and memory
- Construction sets such as Legos and craft kits help with building and creativity
- Video or computer games, game boys help with imagination and social skills if it involves other people. It also encourages them to compete and do better than their previous score
- Bicycles ( without training wheels) and scooters to help with balance, mobility, and maneuvering skills
This is a great age to start involving kids in normal household duties as well. Helping in the kitchen with simple duties like putting plates on the table, helping with baking, and helping around the house with simple chores encourages them to bond with parents and helps them feel loved, and gives them a sense of responsibility.
8 years and up
By this age, most children develop a passion and may become collectors ( like collecting shells, rocks, etc). They also love outdoor sports and activities and start developing adult-like interests and hobbies which show their own personality.
Boys at this age find a computer or video games irresistible and will always be found comparing scores with friends or just talking about the latest games, Many games can be played with friends online as well ( even when they are not together). they like to challenge and compete with each other which makes them more competitive and encourages them to do better than the other.
Girls may still love crafts and writing in diaries. Reading may also feature as a favorite and there is always time for dress-up and pretend play, music, and dancing!
Top toys and activities for this age group encourages building, creativity, and exploring their environment .these include :
- Computer and video games
- Microscope and activity journal and more elaborate science kits
- Latest Scooters and Bicycles
- Basketball hoop or netball system, Skip Ball Sets, or other outdoor sporting equipment
- Craft kits like DIY Bracelet kits, Paper flying dragon Kits
- Nerf Guns and Infrared Laser Tags
- Board Games like Monopoly etc
- DIY Wood Craft Kit like Build and paint your own Wooden cars
- Rock or Shell painting kits
These recommendations above are just a guideline and can be molded to suit your child’s needs or capabilities. It’s more important that they are having fun and learning from their activities.
So now we can see that playtime is a joyful and cherished part of your child’s life and every effort should be made to include it in the best way possible in their everyday activities. Structured and free play different roles to encourage development and competitive skills in your child. Playtime is important at all stages of life to help your child grow into a happier, well-rounded person and better equips them with social, emotional, and cognitive skills. If it’s integrative with their academic enrichment, it will provide a good balance and they will become more confident and intellectual and lead us into a better future.