It’s been said that play is the work of children. Play is a means of learning about the world, oneself and interacting with others. It’s so important that the United Nations has listed it as one of the basic rights of every child, opens a new window.
At the Edmonton Public Library, we recognize the importance of play. We’ve even made it a key component of our daily five recommended practices, opens a new window for developing early literacy skills.
With homework and extracurricular activities vying for attention, it can be easy to forget about play. But there are plenty of important reasons why you should make sure your child gets to play every day. Read on to learn why kids need to play.
Why is Play Important for Children?
Play—both unstructured and learning-based—can be crucial for child development.
1. Play Builds Imagination and Creativity
During play, children often mimic adults and create make-believe games. When a child does this, they’re stretching their imagination. They create complex narratives around these roles and learn to think in abstract ways. This abstract thinking is the foundation for more advanced learning and problem solving.
2. Play Fosters Cognitive Growth
A variety of experts agree that play is essential for brain development. Free play positively affects neurological development by influencing how the neural circuits of the brain are wired. Free play has a beneficial impact on confidence, intelligence and communication.
3. Play Reaps Emotional and Behavioural Benefits
Regular play can reduce anxiety, stress and irritability for children while boosting joy and self-esteem. It improves emotional flexibility, resilience and provides an increased ability to deal with change. Through play, children can confront life’s challenges in a way that they can understand and process.
4. Play Facilitates Group Interaction
Group play is where kids are introduced to social roles and cultural norms. They develop the skills necessary to play cooperatively within group structures. It also gives them an opportunity to learn about self-control, test relationships and understand acceptable group behaviour. The skills learned in group play can help form the basis of a child’s social skills.
5. Play Encourages Greater Independence
Solitary play can be just as valuable as group play. It helps kids to prepare for social situations by providing a stronger sense of independence and promoting creativity. Children who choose to play alone at a playground can also learn social cues by observing other group interactions from afar.
6. Play Promotes Physical Fitness
Kids love to be active. Exercise helps to promote physically fit and healthy children. Play encourages this activity, giving kids the opportunity to sharpen reflexes, work on movement control, improve gross motor skills and develop greater balance. They also build strong muscles, improve bone-density and increase cardio-vascular function. Encouraging active play can have positive far-reaching health effects.
How Can Children Play at EPL?
At the Library, we recognize the importance of play to children’s healthy development. We’ve made it a key component of our five recommended practices for developing early literacy skills and incorporate opportunities to play in all our branches.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library experience has understandably changed a great deal, however, there are still many ways to play at EPL.
- Make a short visit to one of our 21 branches (don’t forget your mask!). Children's areas are cleaned regularly in accordance with all provincial and national public health guidelines, including any low-touch play activities.
- Check out the revitalized Shelley Milner’s Children’s Library. This brand new space features an early literacy centre for babies and toddlers, a playspace for free play and a children’s Makerspace filled with a variety of games, LEGO® and technological toys. As with all our spaces, capacity limits are in effect.
- Join us online! We’re hosting a variety of online classes for babies and toddlers, including our popular Baby Laptime and Sing, Sign, Laugh and Learn classes.
- Get inspired with books, movies and video games that foster play ideas. Here are a few places to start:
- Learn the benefits of loose part play and how to introduce it at home on Saturday, Nov. 21 in our online workshop.
The positive effects of play on young children are far-reaching—influencing their mental, emotional and physical health. The benefits extend to adults as well. Talking about play with children teaches them that adults are invested and respect their play decisions. This fosters better connections between adults and children. In turn, respect, trust and love lay the foundation for the emotional state most conducive to fostering the learning brain.
Adopting a playful attitude also benefits adults' emotional well-being. In times of stress (or a pandemic), it’s an easy way to boost your mood, so instead of using cutlery during dinner tonight, we suggest you try using your fingers (or popsicle sticks, straws or toothpicks) instead. No one is watching and it's plain fun!
For more ideas about how to support your child’s healthy development, visit our early literacy page.