Computers are here to stay and, when appropriately used, video games can help your children develop the special skills needed to navigate the ever-changing technological landscape. According to Psychology Today, video games help improve IQ test scores, self-direction, and actually reduce rates of depression and hostility.
There is a time and a place for screen-time, but it is no replacement for traditional forms of play, whether indoors or out. Play in almost any form is hugely beneficial and can help children develop physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially, according to sources like Voice of Play and PsychCentral.
Play builds healthy bodies
Throw together games of soccer, tag, bike riding, jungle gyms, anything that gets kids moving around or exploring can help them build their bodies and develop physical skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Physical activities help build muscles, strong hearts, lung capacity, and much more. Active play also helps develop reflexes, both gross and fine motor skills, and spatial awareness. In addition to all these benefits kids get a chance to burn off extra energy, which can help them focus.
Play lets kids develop a wide emotional range and empathy
When children pretend, they develop their own fictional characters with unique emotions and motivations. They have to step out of their own feelings and figure out how and why this pretend person is feeling the way they are. This is a great way to help them develop empathy and practice their own emotional responses in a secure and productive way.
Play is good for growing brains
Playing helps children learn how to confront and solve problems. It gives them a chance to improve their reasoning skills, develop language, and practice for themselves things they have learned about the world. Structured games help them learn to make plans, work toward a goal, make decisions, strategize, and follow rules. Games also let kids develop their attention spans and focusing skills.
Play gives kids a chance to practice socializing
One of the best parts of playtime is interacting with peers in an unstructured, casual way. Practice makes perfect, and allowing children ample time to play with others can help them practice interactions and learn how to work well on a team. When kids interact during playtime they learn how to communicate. They can see what works, what doesn’t work, and learn to identify and interpret body language and improve their verbal skills.
Alone time is important
Learning how to play alone is just as important as learning to play in a group. Alone time teaches kids how to rely on themselves and boosts their self-confidence. Kids learn how to solve their own problems and find creative ways to entertain themselves. This helps make kids more independent and develop freethinking.
Free play develops creativity
Structured play is great for teaching kids about teamwork, rules, and time management. But, unstructured free play is too important to ignore. Disorganized, chaotic, unstructured play time teaches kids to develop their own solutions to boredom, and encourages creativity. When kids aren’t so worried about a particular objective, like winning a baseball game, they are able to teach themselves and each other skills like negotiation, collaboration, conflict-resolution, and speaking up for themselves. Children get a chance to choose their own goals, play at their own speed, and develop their own interests.