Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Back to Basics: Why Play Matters

on September 2, 2013

Welcome back to the blog!  We’ve been on vacation-hope you had a great summer!

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

As occupational therapists, we believe that work is the job of childhood.  Okay, not the 9-5, clock in-clock out type drudgery they you may be used to thinking of as work.  Play is the primary occupation of kids and as such, it is where they go to learn, make friends, grow and adapt.

Play helps your child learn about the world around them.  Have you ever gotten your child a present only for them to be more enchanted with the wrapping paper and how it sounds when you crinkle it?  Ever taken them to an awesome playground and all they want to do is play with the rocks?  This type of play demonstrates the innate curiosity kids have for the world around them, and their inner drive to discover how it all works.  By engaging in this type of play, they figure things out like:  how big is it?  how does it feel?  will it interact with me?  what made it?

How cool is that?

Play helps kids learn about themselves and their bodies.  Just by throwing or kicking a ball, kids can learn so much about how their bodies work and how to make themselves or other things move.  They learn how tall or short they are, how strong they are and what they are capable of doing.  Mirrors are a great way for kids to learn about their bodies, but so is movement, which is the focus of most of the play you see at APT.

Play helps kids learn about other kids.  By playing with other kids, your child is able to learn a great deal about socializing, cooperating, compromising, and predicting the behavior of others.  It’s how your kids make friends.  When your child plays with other kids, they learn the value of being part of a team or partnership.  Kids learn even when engaged in parallel play (play alongside another child) and they begin to understand what type of play partner they prefer (quiet, busy, etc.).

Play develops muscles and subsequently coordination, endurance and a host of other physical skills.  By moving their bodies, kids build stronger muscles.  Have you tried doing the monkey bars lately?  That is hard work!  Muscles give joints feedback when they are used and give your child a developing sense of where their body is in space.

Playtime provides relief from boredom, sadness and anxiety.  Research suggests that simply getting your kids outside to play is an effective way to stave off depression and anxiety in today’s high pressure world.  Once the skill to get outside is learned, they are more likely to go there to help themselves when they are feeling a little blue.

As OT’s, it’s our work to help your child most effectively engage in play.  Maybe your child is low tone and has a hard time with physical challenges.  Or maybe they avoid other kids on the playground.  Maybe they get too wild and scare other kids away.  Ask your OT about what we can do to help your child get the most out of playtime.

above image courtesy of New York Times

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