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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

9 Reasons Why Play Matters During Times of Crisis

Photo by ddimitrova (pixabay)

No matter how carefully we try to shield our children from stress during a crisis, children may still pick up on stress in their homes and their communities. Play allows children to work through the complex emotions stress causes in a safe, appropriate way. After all, everyone needs a release valve. For children, that release valve is play.

1. Video Games Are Helpful During Stressful Times

Many parents are very concerned about screen time, and carefully limit the amount of time their children spend engaging with screens. During the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests parents allow some amount of video game playing. Why? Video games often have an online social aspect that can help relieve a child's feeling of social isolation, and it engages the child in a different world which allows escape from the stress of their real life.

2. Playtime Reduces Stress

During normal times, 43% of children between the ages of 8-17 worry about things like doing well in school, their family's finances, and even what college they'll get into. Your child's headaches, stomach aches, and sleepless nights are likely to be influenced by stress in their lives. During a crisis, children's stress skyrockets along with the stress of the adults in their lives. Playing actually works to reduce stress. How? Free play allows children to physically engage with their environments and releases lots of oxytocin and serotonin, which counterbalance stress hormones. It also allows children to emotionally work through their feelings, by imagining scenarios where they can safely work through some of their emotions.? When your kid scales to the top of the playground equipment, they are achieving physical, emotional, and mental goals!

3. Playtime Makes Children More Productive

Some crises put an end to normal schooling. It doesn't put an end to parents wanting their children to continue growing and developing in a healthy manner! Luckily, playing is great for the physical development of your children, it also helps them continue developing mentally and cognitively. Play allows children to explore new concepts, unleash their imagination, and even try out new words. A child with plenty of chances for free play and outdoor activity will continue developing new skills and knowledge.

4. Play Keeps Children (and Adults) Active and Healthy.

Social distancing doesn't necessarily mean skipping all outdoor activities! The CDC recommends staying away from other people and being diligent about hand washing, but as long as your maintaining proper social distancing standards, getting outside is good for the health (mental and physical) of everyone in your household. People with yards should let their kids romp away, but as a family, getting outside with a ball or play a game of tag will relieve stress promote physical health.

5. Outdoor Play Boosts Immune Systems

Being outside boosts your immune system. Naturally, you want to follow all social distancing requirements, and stay away from other people. However, you and your kids still need sun exposure and time outside to work your muscles and blow off steam. If you have space, consider contacting local outdoor play equipment companies and stores and having a private playground installed in your yard.

6. It Helps Kids Deal with Losing a Sports Season

Kids who play organized sports are mourning the loss of playing their beloved sports, seeing their coaches, and being with their teammates. Outdoor, active play allows kids to maintain their physical abilities and relieve some of the stress of being away from their team. Parents should be careful not to turn play and fun outdoor time into drills, though. Forcing certain activities, like jumping jack drills, on stressed children will cause more distress.

7. During a Crisis, Kids Need a "New Normal"

The Coronavirus has caused most children's lives to be turned upside down. They no longer attend school. They don't see their friends or teachers. Many children don't see secondary caregivers or extended family members. Their familiar schedule is no longer in place. Children crave structure, and most parents I know are struggling to come up with a way to structure days in our new reality. Including various types of play daily-video game time, dress-up box time, free play outside, family outdoor games, puzzles in the evening, et cetera-help structure children's days and helps them acclimate to their new normal.

8. Children Need Consistent Caregivers

Many parents are still trying to balance work with their children being home 24/7, helping with distance learning, and preparing endless meals and snacks. Adults are also suffering from stress and uncertainty. All parents need a break! If the pressure causes you to snap, it's just going to make your kids' lives even more stressful. So let them play, and let yourself relax on the sofa while they entertain themselves.

9. Children Still Need Socialization

If you are like me, you leaning heavily on group texts with friends and family and the occasional video conferencing happy hour as an outlet for your socialization needs. Kids are very social little beings, and they miss their friends and classmates. Setup a virtual playdate with video conferencing! Each child can play safely in their own home but still get to engage with their friend!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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