The brain loves to play! Just like it performs miraculous magic tricks as you sleep and age-defying somersaults when you exercise, the brain blossoms during play. Recreation serves our brains in a juicy variety of ways: for children, it is key for neurological development, and for adults, it eases stress and anxiety. I think it's safe to say that playtime is one of life's most fun, exciting choices of brain food!
Let's dive a bit deeper into why a child's budding brain needs to play freely and frequently. We all want our children to learn. If school is a delicious buffet of knowledge, recess is the sitting area where kids can enjoy, digest, reflect, and engage upon what they've learned. Active play energizes the cognitive mind and optimizes information absorption. On top of the glorious benefits of play, physical activity alone does wonders for a kid's brain and body health!
No matter how old you are, who doesn't love to play? While providing more playful opportunities to our children, we should join them to boost our own brainpower! Here are 7 reasons why the brain is built and nourished by play.
- Creativity Ensues: Did you know that LEGO comes from the Danish words "leg godt"? This translates to "play well". It's fitting that one of the most creative toys has such a clever name. That's because play supercharges creativity. It invites children and adults to explore new connections and discover the power of their hands. Ideas spring naturally from a brain that is fluid and free thanks to play.
- Keep on Learning: Play is a brain's absolute favorite way to learn. It's how we've been learning all along - experimentation, mixing, tinkering, adventuring, and imagining. A child or adult at play is also learning about themselves. Trial and error in the safe, soothing environment of play reveals strengths, weaknesses, cognitive styles, and more.
- Challenge Yourself: A playful attitude can make challenges seem less overwhelming and more fun. For example, imagine a group of children pretending to be firemen. Their objective is to slide UP the playground pole because the "stairs" back to home base are out of order. It's no easy feat, but the pretend play scenario fuels their dedication to the activity. They communicate, brainstorm ideas, and work together, all while having a merry time!
- Relieve Stress: Chronic stress is bad news for your brain. Adults and children are affected by it. Play is an essential reprieve to the bombardment of information we receive daily. Not only does it help us process it, play encourages us to uncoil any emotions that have bottled up. This is especially crucial for kids as they become familiar with healthy ways to express themselves. Overall, play waters and weeds the garden of our minds.
- Improve Relationships With Others: Confidence and communication are big building blocks for healthy relationships. In the pretend play firemen scenario, those kids were bouncing ideas around with each other, working as a team to surmount the pole. As adults play a board game, they learn about each other in a lively, stress-free setting. In solo play, we find our inner voice and nourish talents we are proud of.
- Learn About Teamwork: Researchers have discovered a connection between frequent cooperation and neuron complexity. With that in mind, imagine a spirited sports game, an intense volleyball tournament, or those firemen on the playground again. They are all at play, cooperating heartily. Play helps their brains become more open, pliant, and adaptive.
- Just Have Fun: Science aside, just having fun is healthy for your brain. We all need to unwind and socialize, kids and adults alike. Life is meant to be lived. Play is personal and unique to every individual, so I encourage you and your children to find your flavors!
Why does your brain love to play? What has ample playtime done for your kiddos? We want to hear from your side of the playful spectrum, so please drop a comment below. Play on, my friends!
Find more about the author: Kim Hart