Quite simply today’s children need more play in their lives.

Play is the foundation of childhood. It provides the basis for all of your children’s learning opportunities. Play is so valuable and makes for a beautiful childhood. Make time and space for play, your children and you will reap the benefits.

I am a massive advocate for play. In my opinion, children should be free to spend their whole childhood immersed in an imaginary world of play. In fact, I’m going to be as bold as to say that more adults should spend time playing, maybe then the world would be a little brighter.

Most people who know us, know that our children spent 90% of their time playing. Most of the same people see this as a bad thing. “How can the children be learning when all they do is play all day?”. And that my friends is the problem.

Most adults don’t really understand play, they don’t know what real play is, therefore, they have created a clear line between learning and play. When, in actuality, the two things are not separate at all.

To understand play, real meaningful child-led play, you first need to look at the science behind it. Play is a crucial part of human learning and development, and it is all to do with something called counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what actually happened in real life.

Einstein once said that “Play is the highest form of research” and he was absolutely correct. Scientific studies of play have actually found that children who spend more time playing are better at counterfactual thinking, meaning that they can think about different outcomes and possibilities. They can predict events and have better reasoning skills. When you dissect this further and think about the ways in which humans learn, it is truly fascinating stuff. Children are just like scientists testing different theories through their play. They imagine different ways the world around them could work and predict patterns of data that would follow if their theories were to come true. They then compare this pattern to the pattern of real-world events from their lives.

So now we understand the science and psychology of why play is so important we can start to think about what play actually is. The best way to do this is to think about what play is not. Play is not something that can be done to the child, much like learning. Play is not adult-led. Play is free, it is child-led and it is fun.

Making time and space in your days for free play isn’t just vital for the brain development of your child, it has so many benefits. When children play they are invoking all of their senses and using all of their bodies.

Some of the hidden benefits of play include:
Physical wellbeing.
Improves their fine motor skills.
Enables critical thinking.
Enhances their creativity.
Increases concentration.
Develops empathy and social skills.

And most importantly, it brings immense joy to the child!

“Perhaps play would be more respected if we called it something like “self-motivated practice of life skills,” but that would remove the light-heartedness from it and thereby reduce its effectiveness. So we are stuck with the paradox. We must accept play’s triviality in order to realize its profundity.” – Peter Gray

Play should be at the heart of parenting, it fosters closer and deeper connections with your child which will promote more cooperation and joy within your home. In our home, we recognise and value the importance of fun, play, and laughter. Not only does playful parenting reduce stress, promote attachment, and increase the enjoyment of parenting, it’s also super beneficial for your child’s development.

Making time to play with your children is probably one of the most important things you will ever do. It’s so important to carve out time for playful parenting.

We tune into what our girls like to play and do, then play with them. William is better at the roughhousing and goofing around, whereas I am better at the quieter role play games.

Why not try starting your day with some play? A bit of roughhousing, make-believe or dancing around the kitchen. It puts everyone in a joyful mood ready to start the day. Be silly and dramatic. Make up random characters who do silly things.

Turn everyday tasks into play. In our house, we like to turn dinner time into make-believe restaurants. The girls write menus and take turns being the waitress and the disgruntled customer. Let your imagination run wild, release your inner child. The sillier the better. Play is a child’s way of communicating and understanding their environment. Remember that children use play as a means to explore the world, communicate deep feelings, get close to people that they care about, work through stressful situations, and blow off steam.

Share in that joy with them and remember when your child asks you to play with them they are often asking for so much more than just a game.

“Life is more fun if you play games.” – Roald Dahl

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