I love to watch children play – especially when they are learning new activities and sports for the first time in their lives. They are so engaged, energetic and excited as they are building their muscles as well as their confidence and imagination. (It is also so much more fun for both parents and children compared to just sitting them in front of a television.)
As part of my work, I have been able to watch hundreds of children learn new skills as well as simply enjoy the purely physical play of it all. The following are some of the most important benefits beyond just the fun:
1. Play Helps to Build Imagination and Confidence
Physical activity gives children the opportunity to try out new things, build their confidence, and conquer their fears. It has been proven that when children are successful with their movements and are physically active, they show a greater feeling of accomplishment and higher self-esteem levels, according to a piece written by a movement education consultant named Rae Pica for Early Childhood News.
Each new exercise requires practise and provides rewards – whether it is climbing all the way down the monkey bars or attempting to perform a somersault for the very first time. After they have achieved it, their confidence will spike and they will be able to take on more challenging and larger activities, such as Craggy Island‘s climbing walls or learning to ride a bike.
2. Play Develops Key Athletic and Motor Skills
Children grow and develop without even knowing it. When touching their toes, they are learning about spatial relationships, balance, and co-ordination. When playing with a ball, they are improving their fine-motor skills. When dancing, they are learning how to move with a beat and all about rhythm.
Being fit also seems to create exponential benefits. Pica says that it is more likely that fit children will participate in games, dance, sports, and other physical activities which improve body composition, cardio-respiratory endurance, flexibility, and muscular endurance and strength. Physical activity also helps children get through the entire day without becoming too tired.
3. Playing with Others Helps to Teach Good Sportsmanship and Teamwork
It allows children to interact with one another in a non-competitive and social environment. Whether they win or lose really doesn’t matter – it is all about trying their best and working together.
For example, even simple activities liking playing in a gym with a parachute are not as effective unless all of the kids participate. To play the “cat and mouse” game or create “waves” with a parachute, everyone needs to participate and have a specific role. When it comes to team sports like soccer, children are able to build off of one another’s success and strengths and cheer everyone on. It is important for children to learn how to work together as they are moving across the field to score a goal.
4. Play Helps to Build Strong Bonds Between Children and Parents
When caregivers or parents lead a sing-along with their children, teach kids how to properly throw a ball, or demonstrate jumping jacks, not only does it teach children critical physical skills, but it also gives them a chance to spend quality time with their parents and other adults. Parents are also more engaged in the lives of their children. When parents play with their children actively instead of just watching, it really helps them understand what their children really love: is it the somersault, the soccer game, or the sing-along? That information is important to know.
5. Play Makes Children Happy
According to many experts, play is a child’s work. Play lets kids learn new skills, develop, socialise, and learn about others and themselves at the same time. They can develop a daily regimen that also doubles as the ideal way to start an active and healthy lifestyle without even knowing it!