How play can improve your child’s grades, plus more surprising benefits
Play is crucial for a child’s overall development. Find out here how play can benefit your child’s brain and body.
Does your child ask you to play whenever you’re around? Does it seem like all your little one wants to do is play all day? Though you might be going deaf with the unending chorus of “Can we play?”, thisis actually a very good sign.
The benefits of learning through play are numerous. Research shows that play is crucial for a child’s overall development. It is through play that young children engage with and learn aboutthe world around them.You can say it’s their job to play – and it’s our job as parents to encourage this in our children.
On a deeper level, there is a strong connection between play and a child’shealthy brain development. "The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain," says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. "And without play experience, those neurons aren't changed," he says.
According to an article in the NPR, it is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire the brain's executive control centre. This centre has a critical role to play in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems. Pellis explains that play is “what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork”.
In short, play could be the most important thing your child does to boost their holistic development and set them on the path to success in life.
Here are fivethings every parent should know about the benefits of learning through play:
The Benefits of Learning through Play
- Play helps develop imagination
“Imagination is more important than knowledge," Einstein once said. And it is the power of imagination that we should nurture in our children above other kinds of learning.
As repetitive work is being relegated to robots and AI algorithms, imagination is one of the most sought after strengths in the workplace today and in the future.
For us adults, reality and play are two distinct things. This may not be the same with kids. According to Susan Engel, Ph.D., author of Real Kids: Creating Meaning in Everyday Lives, "Two and a half year olds understand the distinction between real and pretend. But when they're in play mode, they can lose sight of that distinction, or it becomes unimportant."
You only have to watch your child playing with their toys to see how their imagination also comes out to play. Through play, little ones are transported to magical, make-believe worlds of their own creation where they be anyone they want to be.
Imagination not only opens the door to possibilities, it is the place where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begins in a child.
In fact, creative play is how children learn about the world. They take this knowledge with them as they grow, benefiting them immensely in their journey through life.
- Play helps improve language skills
Have you noticed when kids play – whether by themselves or with others -- they almost always talk? It comes as no surprise then that play helps unleashthe language skills of children. As kids play, they verbalise their actions, employing words and language to give life to toys or narrate their activities. Also, when they are playing with other kids in a room or in a playground, they exchange words and sentences, which reinforce their language and speech skills.
- Play helps foster social skills and problem-solving
Children learn many life-skills through play. These include understanding problem-solving and cause and effect, as well as learning how to play with others through compromise, conflict resolution and sharing.
According to researcher Jaak Panksepp at Washington State University, “the function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways."
- Play supports cognitive development
Watch your child playing with blocks or their favourite puzzle. Notice how they carefully balance one block on top of the other, or sort them according to colour. See how they know exactly where that puzzle piece fits.
Essentially what you’re observing is how play supports your child’s cognitive development – that is, your child’s ability to think, understand, communicate, remember, imagine and work out what might happen next.
It’s the same when your little one plays outdoors. In fact, numerous studies show that spending time in nature is essential for cognitive development.
One study explains that this is partly because the ever-changing nature of the outdoors provides kids with the opportunity to use their intuition and adapt to and question these differences. And even the consistencies we see in nature (e.g. sunrise, the moon and stars, your child’s “favourite” tree) give little ones a sense of safety and comfort. This nurtures their emotional well-being, which in turn has a positive impact on cognitive development.
“Nature play stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills integral to executive function development,” further elaborates this study. “Children who play and spend time in nature have increased concentration and cognitive skills, including mitigation of ADHD/ADD symptoms.” 
So mums and dads, the next time you bring your kids on a picnic or nature walk, know that some very serious learning is taking place alongside all the fun!
- Play leads to better grades
Yes, you read it right. Play even has a positive effect on your child’s grades!
In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child's social skills in third grade. And by now you know that play is crucial in teaching kids these valuable social skills. Moreover, according to Pellis, "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."
So parents, the next time your little one asks you to play with them, or pleads with you to let them run around outside for longer, you know your answer should be a big, “yes”!
Come and join us at Suntec City East Atrium from 12-18 November at one of the largest playdates ever, Friso Super Play Date!
Admission is free!
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If you’re looking for more ideas for play dates with your child, check them out here.
Friso believes experience is the child’s best teacher. The more they experience, the more they develop. Children learn best when they get to experience something first-hand. Find out how you can give your child more learning experiences as they grow with these articles and resources from Friso at https://www.friso.com.sg/