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Thursday, December 10, 2020

10 Ways That Play Builds Future Pioneers

Photo by 5712495 (Pixabay)

10 Ways That Play Builds Future Pioneers

If you want your kids to grow into responsible and successful adults, you should encourage them to play more. That sounds a little counterintuitive, but it's through play that kids learn the necessary skills to succeed on their path through life and become the world's future pioneers. This has become perfectly apparent to me after watching my two daughters play together over the years and seeing firsthand just how valuable unstructured playtime can be to their development.

My girls have recently fallen in love with playing hide and seek, and I mean LOVE. It's become an almost-daily activity in our household, and they're getting pretty good at it. The other day, my oldest got the idea to remove some clothes from the hamper, get in, and then pile the discarded clothes back on top of her. The illusion was so well done that we spent almost a half-hour searching for her. (In truth, I actually began to worry a bit before we found her.) For context, this is the same girl who just a few months earlier had attempted to conceal herself behind a curtain that only covered her from the knees up. By playing hide and seek, she practiced problem-solving and learned how to outwit her opponent, honing valuable skills she'll need throughout life.

Here are just a few ways that play can help turn your child into a pioneer.

Play Stimulates Creativity

I like to believe that I'm a fairly creative adult: I like to paint and write and am almost always working on a DIY project of some sort. Compared to my kids, though, my imagination is nothing. My girls can look at a fort made of pillows and blankets and see a dark, foreboding cave filled with all sorts of hidden mysteries or an out-of-control space station hurtling through the cosmos. Creativity like this should be encouraged at every opportunity. The ability to look past what something is and see what it can be is a skill that can lead to them becoming an inventor or a business owner or just a happy adult. A creative mind is a successful mind.

Play Encourages Critical Thinking

When my girls have unstructured playtime, I never know what they'll come up with. Sure, sometimes they choose to play hide and seek or break out a favorite board game, but they're just as likely to come up with an entirely new game all on their own. When they do this, it's completely up to them to create the rules. This means figuring out what works and what doesn't in an attempt to make the game as fun as possible. By doing this, they are teaching themselves to look at a situation, judge the possible outcomes, and decide which method works best. They're learning how to think critically and solve any problems that may get in their way.

Play Develops Communication Skills

Kids playing together can lead to a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it can also lead to a lot of screaming and crying if one child isn't getting their way. This is when they need to use and develop their communication skills. Kids have to converse with one another to negotiate how they will play. What game are they going to play? Who gets to go first? Who gets to be Elsa and who gets to be Anna? As they talk it out, they're building communication skills that will serve them well as adults.

Play Builds Self-Esteem

Who doesn't love winning? Even if it's just one round of hide and seek, winning in a game makes you feel invincible, like you can take on the world. But winning isn't everything: Even losing during playtime can help build up a child's self-esteem in the long run. Naturally, in the moments immediately following a loss, they may feel a little down, but it encourages them to try harder and get better, a lesson we all need to learn at some point in our lives. My daughter may have been disappointed when hiding behind the curtains didn't work, but she was ecstatic when we couldn't find her hiding in the laundry hamper: Because she had initially failed, her success in the long term taught her to believe in herself and that she could get better if she applied herself.

Play Helps Us Discover Our Passions

When kids play, it can lead them to try new things and find talents they didn't know they had. For instance, if your child loves to build models, think about encouraging them to try out other activities that rely on working with their hands: Perhaps you have a future architect or engineer in the making. If your child loves helping you in the kitchen, maybe they'd like to try setting up a stand at the end of the driveway and having a bake sale. They might find that they have a natural disposition for business. It's important to take note of how your child plays and what it is about that playtime that captures their attention, so you can help them discover new things they might enjoy.

Play Enforces Cooperation

Recently, I walked in on my daughters battling an evil dark wizard (my husband) who had enslaved the innocent civilians of Couchopolis, a peaceful farming nation located in our living room. They explained to me that neither of them was strong enough on their own, so they had to team up in order to defeat the wizard. Was it silly, fantastical, and over the top? Of course, but the lesson was very much real. They realized that they were stronger together than they could ever be apart. This spirit of teamwork and cooperation is something that will hopefully stick with them as they leave the imaginary world and enter the real one, where they may one day truly save lives.

Play Reduces Stress

Stress is the natural enemy of productivity. It bogs us down, makes us overthink, and keeps us from being our best selves. Knowing how to manage that stress is something even many full-grown adults struggle with on a daily basis. It can be easy to forget, but knowing how to take a deep breath and calm yourself can be vital to being successful. By having your kids engage in regular unstructured playtime, you're showing them that it's OK to take time for yourself in order to avoid becoming a neurotic mess.

Play Teaches Resourcefulness

My daughters like to build forts, but the interesting thing is that each one is unique. Each time they build one, they're working from an entirely different set of materials, usually in a different room of the house. When they want to build a fort, they will find a way to build a fort, and I expect it's no different for kids over the globe. Children have a seemingly natural talent for being able to make something from nothing if they're motivated. It may take a bit of explaining on their part and some imagination on yours, but you can almost always see what they were going for. This ability to take the mundane and turn it into something extraordinary should be nurtured. It could very well be the trait that sets them apart from the competition later in life.

Play Inspires Pride

If you have a child, chances are good that at some point, they've said these exact words to you: "Look what I made!" Every one of us wants to be appreciated and validated for our work, and your children are no exception. When they hand you a drawing they did and you hang it up on your fridge or they show off the beautiful castle they just built in their sandbox, the joy radiating from them is palpable. This sense of pride that they get from play can easily be translated to their work as an adult. When we take pride in our work, we're able to put our very best foot forward.

Play Shows Us the Importance of Self-Reliance

For her last birthday, my oldest daughter received a rather large Lego set from her uncle. It took her hours to build it on her own, but whenever I asked if she wanted help, she always said no. When she finished and I asked why she didn't want me to help, she explained simply that she wanted to do it all by herself. She knew it would be easier with others, but ultimately, it was her set to build. Hearing her say that made me really proud. At her age, I would've welcomed the help, but she has already realized that even though some extra hands may have made for an easier time, she had it in her to do all on her own.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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