All play is not equal. While screen-based activities like video games and learning apps do have their benefits, nothing can replace old fashioned, screen-free play. In our modern, technology-dependent society, children should have some limited exposure to devices, but their unstructured free time should be comprised of mainly screen-free activities.
There are many skills strengthened through play that are helpful and perhaps even required for academic success. Such as:
Motor Skills & Body Awareness
Physical, tangible play is the most natural way in which children learn. By manipulating, sorting and arranging objects, they are honing their dexterity and fine motor skills. Stacking, building and creating are activities that young children are naturally drawn to, and for good reason.
Whether it is crawling on the floor (all children crawl- even if they can walk. Just ask any parent to tell you about the worn out knees on their child's pants!), squatting down to pick up a toy, rolling around to get a better view or falling down and getting back up, moving about during play helps create new neural pathways and improves balance. Establishing and improving body awareness will increase a child's core strength and help them build gross motor skills needed to navigate and process the world around them.
When children use play figures like dolls or animals, and objects like play food, tools or utensils to pretend-play, they learn how to socialize, regulate emotions and build other important life skills. Simple, screen-free toys provide children with freedom to use their imagination and creativity, practice problem-solving, and learn how to interact with others. Free-play can also help children strengthen their emotional intelligence. Empathy is one of the mort important emotional skills that can be acquired through play. When a child is able to regulate their own emotions, they can begin to understand how their emotions can impact others, as well as understand why and how a friend feels a certain way. A child who has and is shown empathy is more apt to have healthy successful relationships in school and in life.
Electronic Toys Command Attention
It's no secret that 'boredom' increases creativity and encourages children to come up with unique ideas. All of us can remember being bored as children and being able to easily find something to ease that feeling. Children now often lack that ability because electronics don't allow for much downtime or independent thinking. Electronic devices provide constant stimulation, preventing children from having to go find their own fun.
Simple is Best
Now that fall is upon us, parents are thinking about how their child might fare in the upcoming school year. A simple and incredibly easy (and FUN!) way to improve academic performance and learning is to encourage good old fashioned play! The benefits speak for themselves! Think traditional and encourage kids to break out a board game, dig out those art supplies and make a masterpiece, do a puzzle, build a block tower or fill the living room with the world's COOLEST marble run track! The key here is to encourage movement, encourage social interaction, and let them be bored -- with traditional toys around the boredom won't last long, we promise!