“Play is a birthright”: The lifelong benefits of active play, according to a paediatrician

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Encouraging active play at an early age offers a host of benefits for your child's physical, emotional, psychological, and social development!

More and more parents are seeing the wondrous benefits of fostering a child’s imagination through play, but it turns out there’s much more to it than we think.

We caught up with Dr. Joselyn Eusebio, a veteran paediatrician, to learn more about all of its benefits.

“Active play has a very important role in the overall or holistic development of a child because it contributes to the development of the child’s physical, cognitive, and that includes language as well as socio-emotional development, specifically physical means that it will improve their gross motor skills,” she began, elucidating further on cognitive development as encompassing both language and learning.

Continuing, she told us, “As for its socio-emotional effects, it stimulates and improves a child’s interaction with people around him. At the same time, it enhances interpersonal as well as intra-personal skills, meaning to say that he will be able to develop self-confidence, creativity, and so on.”

There are different types of play, but the two major ones are structured and unstructured.

“During structured play, the environment where the child will play has rules and regulations. As for unstructured play, anything goes, like free play,” she explains.

If you’re a parent of child aged 2 years or below, it’s helpful to know that they normally engage in “parallel play, simply imitating what other people or other children in their environment are doing.”

“As for older kids, specifically those 3 to 7 years old, we usually engage them in a creative play,” shares Dr. Eusebio, explaining that creative play incites the imagination in the form of activities such as role playing. “Parents and children can describe a scenario, like playing house or acting like a parent to dolls, for instance.”

Active play encourages bonding between a parent and child

Not only does this encourage kids to exercise their imagination, it also strengthens the bond between parent and child.

“Because parents take an active role, engaging the child and participating,” she emphasises. “Not just telling the child how to do certain things. If the parent participates in play, that will motivate the child more.”

Technology can become a hindrance to active play

“I think the parents should really be the role model,” said Dr. Eusebio when asked about how being glued to gadgets impacts a child’s opportunities for enriching play. “The parents should initiate and create an environment that will engage the child to play rather than be glued to gadgets.”

Continuing, she said, “It’s simple. As a parent, you should be firm and determined that when you tell your child, ‘using the iPad too much is not good for you,’ and then present alternative activities in the form of play.”

“During the toddler years, it is a period of rapid brain development. Overusing gadgets can have a bearing on cognitive, behavioural development,” she continued. “In fact, the new recommendation now is: for kids less than 18 months, they are allowed to use gadgets, for as long as it’s in the form of video chatting, as this encourages interaction.

As for kids 2 to 5 years, she says that ideal exposure is an hour a day, supervised by parents, of course.

“Parents should be beside them the whole time while watching only high quality programming, specifically educational videos,” she added.

While many would assume being glued to technology can result in passive behaviour, it can actually encourage the opposite because being exposed to violent images like video games can inspire aggressive behaviour.

“We have a lot of kids now who tend to be aggressive, to be impulsive, and they can’t regulate themselves. There are studies now which claim that too much exposure to advanced technology can contribute to problems with focusing, vision problems, poor posture, obesity, short attention span, and ADHD. There is increased aggression, violence among kids, addiction, poor frustration tolerance, because they want instant things. If they don’t get what they want, they tend to throw temper tantrums.”

“It is the right of any child who is born to play.”

Though she acknowledges the benefits of technology, specifically for kids of OFWs. But the negative effects outweigh the positive ones.

“In fact the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights mentioned that play is actually a birthright,” stated Dr. Eusebio. “It is the right of any child who is born to play or to engage in play.”

Truly, parents can greatly benefit from encouraging this form of play just as much as it offers a wealth of benefits that will last their child a lifetime.

Also READ: How important is play to your child?

*Republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.

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