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Yay, it’s the holidays! Time to relax and have some fun playtime.

What is playtime?

We can loosely define play as voluntary, fun activities with no external goals. We often regard play as an enjoyable activity with no clear purpose, but this cannot be further from the truth. Play activities are essential to children’s development. Most life skills are learnt in childhood through play-based activities. Children learn social and emotional skills through role play activities. For example, they learn how to negotiate and compromise when negotiating the rules of games with peers. Additionally, they learn how to use their imagination to find creative solutions to problems. Physical play activities such as running, climbing and playing with balls – help children to develop physical strength, develop coordination and balance. It is also important for an overall sense of physical and mental wellbeing.

Play activities can be structured or unstructured.

Today’s society is very focused on structured activities, often with an academic goal, that teachers introduce very early in the preschool years. Structured activities and play are often led by grown-ups, for example sports lessons, art classes or story telling at the local library. These activities are important but can impact on time available for unstructured play activities. Children also need unstructured free play and downtime to relax, recharge, use their imagination and to explore at their own pace.

Play activities develop with your children and change as they get older. Play activities start at a young age when babies start smiling in a social way. Babies love looking at other people’s smiles and faces, love listening to voices and songs, enjoy playing peek-a-boo and gentle tickles. Play slowly becomes more complex as children get older and their inquisitive brains will explore and play with anything in their surrounds. Expensive toys are certainly not needed. Regular household items and cardboard boxes often make the best toys and are great for building cubbyhouses.

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Play Activities for Adults 

Adults can also benefit from play activities. Play can help to strengthen relationships between parents and their children, improve communication and reduce stress within families. Seeing the world again through our children’s eyes can certainly bring back the joy of our own childhood experiences. Thus, please switch off the electronic devices these holidays and let your childhood imagination run wild.

 

BY Dr Adele Heyer – Townsville Paediatrics