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How Do Play and Leisure Contribute to Children’s Development?

image of two children playing with building blocks

To grown-ups, kid’s play might sometimes feel more like a trivial and fun thing to do to burn off some energy. However, for our little ones, play is absolutely vital when it comes to all aspects of their development, especially in regard to how children learn.

Young people make sense of the world around them and obtain vital life skills by engaging in all forms of play. This is why it’s important to ensure their leisure time doesn’t just consist of watching TV or playing on the computer.

When it comes to playing, children need to spend time outside and with other children as well. Whether they’re playing with their favourite interactive doll or exploring the outdoors, this will help their ever-learning brain to develop and teach children important lessons while also helping them practice life skills.

Read on to understand why play and leisure time are such key aspects of your children’s development, from the minute they are born until their teenage years. Our guide will also offer some useful tips on how to assist your child in making the most of their playtime!

The influences of play and leisure on a child’s development

According to the renowned physician and educator Maria Montessori, ”play is the work of the child”. Much of this statement holds true when understanding that through play and having the time to be creative and spontaneous, your little one learns to understand their world, themselves, and other people.

Children play to learn and have fun, so the importance of play and leisure time cannot be overstressed.

There are some major benefits of play, whether caregivers are part of the play, the play is being structured or completely left to your little ones’ imagination.

What are the benefits of play?

1 – Brain development

Unstructured sensory play, as well as imaginative play, have a positive impact on your child’s cognitive development. 

Specifically, these two forms of unstructured play help children develop their brain functions effectively as neural connections are formed and strengthened. These connections are key for your child’s thinking ability. 

Most of these neural connections are formed in the prefrontal cortex of your child’s brain, which is responsible for problem-solving and learning skills.

2 – Enhanced creativity and imagination

When children play games, their imagination gets challenged and grows as they imagine roles or allocate imaginary functions to certain objects. In particular, make-believe play helps children act out scenarios which help them develop problem-solving skills and strengthen their confidence by making up their own rules.

Children learn about empathy when engaging in role-play, enhancing emotional development. For instance, when playing with a doll’s pram or pushchair, your child could be imagining what it would be like to be a mother, father or caregiver and try to see the world through your eyes.

3 – Intellectual development (literacy and numeracy)

When involved in active play with other children, our little ones learn how to use language effectively and communicate with each other. During make-believe play, children often use stories they have read in books or heard from their families, teaching them how to recall narratives and strengthening their ability to memorise things.

On top of that, once children start going to school, they tend to learn better and are more focused after a study break that included unstructured play and leisure time. During this break, they can get rid of excess energy and afterwards re-dedicate their attention to learning as playing fosters curiosity, which aids immensely as children learn.

4 – Physical development

Physical movement greatly influences children’s brain development. Activity strengthens certain brain connections and teaches children how to use their bodies by developing their gross motor skills.

Being active and engaging in physical play is vital during leisure time. Apart from the obvious physical health effects of active play, there are some further physical benefits that can come from playing:

  • Improved movement control and reflexes
  • Better balance and strength
  • Healthy bones and strong muscles
  • Enhanced cardio-vascular functions

Alongside this, physical development is even more improved when active play is performed outdoors.

5 – Social and emotional development

Your children will interact socially during many forms of play, having a positive influence on their language and emotional skills.

Playing socially enhances their social skills as they try to navigate through role play, learn to share toys, or negotiate play time with friends, family members, or authority figures. Through this play, they get to understand conflict resolution, speak up for themselves and become more independent and confident in their own persona, which are all important life skills to learn.

What are the benefits of leisure?

While the importance of play is now clear for child development, being able to spend their free time according to their own imagination has a big impact on the development of self-esteem and independence in young people. It also has a lot of positive impacts on their mental health! 

Here are some further benefits of leisure:

  • Improvement of physical and mental health
  • Reduces stress and anxiety-related issues
  • Regulates body as well as mind
  • Enhances learning abilities
  • Mitigates stress and related issues
  • Boosts mood
  • Fosters creativity

All of these points are vital to child development and aren’t just beneficial for grown-ups and our mental health. These tools are especially important for young people as their brains and bodies are still in the developmental stage. They need positive environments and healthy lifestyles to grow into happy, healthy, and successful adults.

FAQs about children’s development

What leisure and play activities are there for children?

When looking for activities that foster child development through play, focus on fun and spontaneous activities. This means that activities don’t involve too many boundaries or a set of goals and have a certain degree of imagination. 

Here are some examples of activities that help with child development:

  • Sand or water play
  • Playdough
  • Role play and dress up
  • Painting or drawing
  • Puzzles or building blocks
  • Sensory play
  • Outdoor play

Should I give my child electronic toys or non-electronic toys to play with?

While it is important that children learn how to operate electronic toys, smartphones and tablets, it is also important to limit the playtime with these items, depending on your child’s age.

In order to foster the healthy development every caregiver or parent wishes for their young child, you should enforce play that evolves around non-electronic toys. You should also make sure your little one spends lots of time outdoors and with other children where their creativity is stretched even more.

How can I engage with my child when playing?

Caregivers and family members can partake in their children’s play activities at any time. It is a great way to connect with your little one and learn more about how your child thinks and acts.

The importance of playing with your children is that it should never be directed by you or another caregiver. Instead, let your child dictate the course of the game or activity in order for them to have a healthy development of self-esteem and creativity.

Encourage development with a dolls pram or pushchair

Through play, children develop valuable life skills which become increasingly important as they grow up and navigate their world as members of society. 

The element of creativity and independence in how they use their leisure time to play cannot be underestimated as well, which is why the use of toys and active games is definitely recommended.Why not get your child a dolls pram or pushchair for them to play with and aid in their development? At Play Like Mum, we have an incredible range of dolls prams and dolls pram accessories, including dolls carriage prams and dolls high chairs.

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