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Thursday, May 16, 2019

10 Reasons Why Play is Important for Mental Health

Photo by A Health Blog (Flickr)

You may have noticed that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Just as it's important for adults to practice self-care and tend to their mental health, it's important for parents to help foster the same skills in children. Mental health should be taken as seriously as physical health. But what you may not realize is that play is vital to your child's mental health. Not only does it have health benefits, but a lack of play can be detrimental. I've come up with a list of the ten biggest reasons why play is important to mental health. And you can bet I consulted my girls!

  1. Depression and anxiety rates have been rising steadily in the past 50 years in the U.S. Psychologists still struggle to understand the root causes of depression and anxiety, but in young people, many link the rising rates to a declining sense of control over their fate and a shift from intrinsic goals to extrinsic goals. How does play work into this? The amount of time kids get for free play has been on the decline, too. Freedom to play independently gives children a sense of control over their lives and allows them the independence to work on internal goals. When kids can't play on their own, making their own rules, they're deprived of the chance to make and meet their own goals while building confidence.
  2. Play can promote positive feelings! Hopefully, all of us have felt the joy and thrill of play. All of us need a pick-me-up sometimes, and through play, kids can learn early what kinds of activities make them feel relaxed and happy.
  3. Play builds resilience. We will all face struggles, setbacks, and hard times. A sense of resilience is key to helping us pull through. Through play, children can build a sense of both physical and mental resilience, as play can push them to develop emotional responses and help them manage adversity.
  4. Believe it or not, play can actually improve the attention spans of kids who have trouble concentrating.
  5. It's probably no surprise that play can help children improve their social skills. While playing with others, they get plenty of social practice along with the chance to improve their empathy.
  6. Studies have shown that schools with increased free play time have fewer incidents of bullying. A lot of people think this is because play helps kids to decrease aggressive feelings and regulate their anger and frustration.
  7. Did you know that play has great benefits for adults, too? Take this as your cue to host a game night, sing some karaoke, or play some mini-golf: It'll improve your mood and lower your stress levels.
  8. For children who have already been diagnosed with a mental illness, like depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or OCD, play can be an instrumental part of therapy. Play therapy, art therapy, and music therapy can be quite effective.
  9. Play is a great chance for kids to learn problem-solving skills. The confidence to solve problems can help kids improve self-esteem and experience less frustration in the face of challenges.
  10. Play can work the imagination. Of course, the point of play is to have fun, and when kids are relaxed and creating their own fun, they have the time and space to let their imagination run wild!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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