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“Play lies at the core of human joy and well-being.”

  1. PLAY increases emotional well-being in life

It is a known fact that play is of vital importance in children’s health and development and in becoming responsible individuals. Yet, despite the wide spread belief that play is beneficial to children, opportunities and encouragement for free play are increasingly limited. Among child development experts and education professionals there are growing calls for reintroducing play into early childhood education (Elkind 2007, Fisher 2011).

“Touch, laughter and play stimulate hormones that boost the capacity to love life. The activation of the brain’s play system is key to living life well. When this system is optimally activated in childhood, it sets the foundation for the ability in later life to bring a sense of play into relationships.” – Margot Sunderland

2. PLAY changes the chemicals in your brain

"The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain, says the Canadian university researcher, Sergio Pellis. "Without play experience, those neurons are not changed.”

It is during childhood when the changes in the prefrontal cortex help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis continues, so play is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.

Active Play = Active Learning

3. PLAY enhances physical, social, and emotional skills

Play enhances social, physical and emotional development by providing children a way to express and cope with feelings. Pretend play helps children express feelings in the following four ways (Piaget, 1962):

· Practice both verbal and nonverbal communication skills by negotiating roles, trying to gain access to ongoing play, and appreciating the feelings of others (Spodek & Saracho, 1998).

· Respond to their peers’ feelings while waiting for their turn and sharing materials and experiences (Sapon-Shevin, Dobbelgere, Carrigan, Goodman, & Mastin, 1998; Wheeler, 2004).

· Experiment with roles of the people in their home, school, and community by coming into contact with the needs and wishes of others (Creasey, Jarvis, & Berk, 1998; Wheeler, 2004).

· Experience others’ points of view by working through conflicts about space, materials, or rules positively (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990; Spodek & Saracho, 1998).

“Children are seeking joy and wonder in their play.” – Margot Sunderland

4. PLAY increases creativity and innovation

Free play empowers young children to experiment with their mind and body, use play in different kinds of ways to solve simple problems, to explore possibilities to do things differently, to discover what they can and cannot do, to imagine the use of play in imaginative ways without adults telling them what to do, how to do it, and why. This “freedom” or fee play time is extremely important in a child’s emerging thinking, creativity, and innovation.

When children play with their peers, indoors or outdoors, they imagine, create, and try new things they may not have tried before. They experiment with a few risks, and each time they experiment and take another small risk, they are building confidence.

5. PLAY reduces limits and activates imagination

As many experts will tell you, play is children’s work. Play encourages children to socialize, develop their bodies and minds, and learn new skills–while learning about themselves and their friends. This kind of open play stimulates imagination. Our job, as adults, is to spark a child’s imagination, allowing them to direct their own activities, come up with new plans and ideas for play. Imagination allows a child’s mind and spirit to roam free.

“You see a child play, and it is so close to seeing an artist paint, for in play a child says things without uttering a word. You can see how he solves his problems. You can also see what's wrong. Young children, especially, have enormous creativity, and whatever's in them rises to the surface in free play.”– Erik Erikson

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