In society today, there seems to be so much focus. We focus on work, money, social media, technology and more. But through all the hustle and bustle of life, we tend to forget to focus on something important to health and well-being— we forget to focus on play.
According to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (the AAP),
“Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.”
So, why is play considered an afterthought in our daily routines? Play is something that should be encouraged, especially in children. With structured school systems and lack of adequate play time, kids could actually be missing out on a part of learning that can’t be taught in the classroom. The natural ability to learn while playing is not only a stress reliever, but studies show that play teaches skills needed for communication, development, emotional intelligence and more.
The AAP describes four categories of play: object play; physical, locomotor, or rough-and-tumble play; outdoor play; and social or pretend play alone or with others. While all categories promote exploration, social or pretend play, also known as imaginative play, encourages experimentation toward education. Whether you and your child are dressing up, role playing or just making games up as you go along, this type of play is extremely beneficial.
At Children’s Museum of Atlanta, we are constantly encouraging imaginative play. With exhibits allowing kids free range in a grocery store, farm or magical forest, imagination is the key to unlocking the possibilities during a Museum visit.
Additionally, the Museum’s newest exhibit, Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit places special importance on imaginative play. For example, you and your child can dress up as doctors, visit the animal hospital, pretend to perform surgeries and take care of baby dolls in the nursery. Throughout these experiences, children are not only imagining the possibilities of play, but they are developing crucial skills that improve vocabulary, social skills and problem solving, among others. The social role playing involved in the exhibit allows children to place themselves into new situations, and it gives parents the opportunity to join their kids in creative discovery of new ideas and adventures.
Having a fun and safe environment for kids to explore is necessary for educational imaginative play, making the Museum a great resource for families. “Play is intrinsically motivated and leads to active engagement and joyful discovery,” the AAP states. “Although free play and recess need to remain integral aspects of a child’s day, the essential components of play can also be learned and adopted by parents, teachers, and other caregivers to promote healthy child development and enhance learning.”
So, it’s time to focus on play. Focus on the fun that play provides to all, and encourage your kids to embrace the possibilities that come with imaginative play. Explore with your kids, imagine with your kids and learn with your kids.