In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on the mental health of kids and teens. And rightfully so – mental health problems are on the rise in young people. But what often gets overlooked is the role that play can have in kids' mental health. Play is essential for healthy child development, and it can be a powerful tool for promoting mental well-being.
Play is essential for children's mental and emotional development
Prompt playtime is a crucial part of a child's emotional and mental development. Through playing, a child discovers how to interact both with their peers and the environment around them. Play encourages children to test boundaries and helps them learn physical, social, and language skills. It enables children to challenge themselves within safe parameters and gives them the opportunity to express their creativity - all vital for emotional wellbeing. A recent study conducted by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that regular play has significant benefits for a child's emotional and mental development. The study found that playtime helps children develop stronger social-emotional skills, better problem solving abilities, improved executive functioning, and increased self-regulation. On top of this, when parents or caregivers actively join in the playtime activities with children, it provides an additional layer of rich connection that further nourishes the emotional development of young minds.
It helps them to express themselves and explore their feelings
Creative activities are an essential part of life for many people. Not only do these activities provide a valuable outlet for stress and tension – allowing individuals to experience a measure of peace and relaxation – but they also provide an opportunity for self-expression. Whether through painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, or any other medium, creative activities give people the ability to explore their own emotions and share them with the world in a meaningful way. Creative activities allow us to externalize our feelings in a more tangible form, which can aid others in understanding our experiences more deeply. While the benefits of creative expression are diverse, it’s clear that engaging in creative activities can be profoundly healing and helpful on the individual level.
Expressing through music
Music can be a powerful tool for expressing oneself and exploring deeper emotions. It has the ability to reach beyond words, allowing us to tap into meaningful experiences in a safe and comfortable way. Listening to music, playing instruments, or singing can bring comfort and understanding to our innermost thoughts. Through this form of expression, we can learn more about ourselves and sort out our feelings. When done with intention, music allows us to access a source of peace while encouraging lasting growth in both body and mind. Music is an effective way of expressing feelings we may not feel comfortable sharing directly with others.
It also teaches them important social skills like cooperation and sharing
During play, children learn important social skills such as cooperation and sharing. Playing together reinforces the benefits of working and playing as a team, encourages problem-solving skills, and helps them to build strong relationships. Through play, children learn how to respect each other’s differences and be more considerate. They develop empathy through listening to others’ opinions and understanding different points of view. As children play together their ability to share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, cooperate and work together will become stronger giving them the essential skills they need in life.
Playing with others can boost kids' self-esteem and confidence
Playing with others is an invaluable way to boost a child's self-esteem and confidence levels. According to a study by the University of Montreal, children who engage in social play have higher levels of self-esteem and confidence than those who do not. It allows them to contributing individual parts as well as work cooperatively in teams, honing relationships and learning how to be part of a larger group. As children learn how to communicate effectively they gain in confidence, understanding there are always different ways to look at a particular problem or situation. They not only get the chance to practice their newly learned skills but also feel the emotional benefit of the bond that develops from the social interaction when playing together. Not only do these experiences help build essential skills for later life but also create lasting memories and memories that foster an overall sense of self-worth and pride.
And it's just plain fun!
Play can brighten our days, bring us together, and reaffirm the joys of life. It can take us away from reality and offer an opportunity to bond with one another in a light-hearted atmosphere. Not only is play enjoyable, but it also helps stimulate our minds, teaches us valuable skills, builds relationships and even gives us an emotional boost. It's a great way to playfully explore the world around us while getting a break from day-to-day stressors. Taking time to play can be beneficial for everyone, no matter the age or ability level. Plus, it's just plain fun!
Though play may look different now than it did in our own childhoods, its benefits remain the same. It's more important than ever to make sure our kids have time to play every day. If you're looking for ways to incorporate more play into your child's life, join YFN Academy. Through movement and exploration, kids will learn valuable skills that they can use throughout their lives. And most importantly, they'll have fun!
University of Montreal. “Children Who Engage in Social Play Have Higher Levels of Self-Esteem and Confidence than Those Who Do Not.” University of Montreal, 2019, http://www.umontreal.ca/en-research/children-who-engage-in-social-play/.
United States National Institutes of Health. "The Importance of Play in Kids' Mental Health." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 May 2020, www.nih.gov/news-events/spotlights/importance-play-kids-mental-health.