Children benefit from engaging in a wide range of play activities. One important type of play is physical play. Physical play uses their abundant energy and develop both gross and fine motor skills. Think of playing any type of ball , jumping, climbing, dancing or just running for the fun of it. Being physically active in play is vitally important to a child’s development and overall health. It is not only beneficial for their bodies but also for their brain development, and helps them make social connections and relieve stress. Physical play is equally important for adults.
Kids naturally seem to have endless supplies of energy. That energy needs a physical outlet regularly. Think of the importance of recess breaks in elementary school. Today our society has become more sedentary and that includes our children. We all know of the concerns with childhood obesity. Many are concerned with the influence television, video games, and the internet are having on the decreasing amount of time children are spending in physical play. While this “screen time” does have benefits and kids love it, children should spend most of their time physically playing and interacting with others. It is recommended that children are active 1-2 hours per day.
While it only seems logical that frequent active play will help children not only burn calories but decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, being active can also help with early brain development. Research suggests that active vigorous play can help brains grow larger and make stronger connections between brain areas.
Being involved in physical activities helps kids socially. This doesn’t necessarily have to be organized sports although they have their benefits. Playing ball,jump rope or just running and playing tag all help them be involved with each other. They learn to function as a team while playing sports, encouraging and supporting one another. They learn how to negotiate, follow rules and lose gracefully. They gain confidence and are motivated to learn to improve their own skills through repetition and practice. Kids learn to make decisions such as forming the rules for a game. Even spontaneous “roughhousing” can help them bond and learn about each other.
Physical activity is not only a stress-reliever in adults but in children also. Physically playing hard can relieve tension and anxiety. Exercise can be an outlet to rid the body of stress hormones and also increase levels of endorphins, a chemical that makes a child feel good. “Studies done by the US National Centre for Health Statistics have shown that the higher levels of endorphins produced by regular exercise for children means that your child’s emotional outlook is more likely to be positive and he will be less anxious than children who do not take exercise.”
As parents it’s important to encourage physical play. Be active with your children. Go for a walk or hike together. Go to the park and play catch or play on the playground. Turn on some music and dance together. Kids love the water, go swimming or just run through the sprinklers. Try old games like jump rope or hopscotch. Try new activities like a new sport. Stuck in the house on a rainy day? Make an obstacle course out of wooden blocks, cardboard boxes, or other objects. Make things they must go around, jump over, or crawl under. Little ones love a game of duck, duck goose or love to try things like skipping and hopping on one foot. Just jump up and move and you’ll find your child will be healthier and happier and you will too.