Letting Your Children Play Is Good for Their Brains


Letting Your Children Play Is Good for Their Brains


Written by: Jennifer Landis

Schools are getting more structured. Parents are panicking way too early about their kids getting into the best colleges. Preschools are competing for parents’ dollars and are trying to attract people by boasting the best educational opportunities. Since they cost almost as much as college, they may as well offer the same experiences. But does your three-year-old really need to learn algebra before everyone else’s kid? Would it be a disaster if they didn’t learn to speak another language until grade school?

There is nothing wrong with greater academic opportunities. In theory, children who learn more at an early age will be more successful later in life. But what’s wrong with letting them be kids while they are kids? Instead of studying astronomy at age four, they should be outside gazing at the sky and imagining it all for themselves. They should play with their friends and talk about flying to the moon or building a tower that reaches it.

Play Is Essential

Playing and imagining and socializing are fun for your children and also essential to their ability to learn and to get along with others throughout life. Playing is healthy for their brains. There isn’t even an argument about whether learning or playing is more important. Both are necessary for your child’s development, and playing will help your child learn.

Playing isn’t something you will have to teach your children. Children play all the time. They may love toys, but they don’t need them. Children can amuse themselves with rocks, sticks, leaves or a littered plastic bottle. Their imaginations are what make these boring, everyday things come to life.

As children get older, we have to redirect them from playing in order to eat meals, accomplish simple tasks or get ready for bed. They can’t play all the time, but letting them play is good for their brain. They learn while they play, they develop while they play and they socialize at play, too.

Science at Play

When children play, they develop the neuron connections in the front part of their brains, the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain regulates emotions and is also used for planning and problem solving. Most of this is done naturally.

We can encourage our children to play but do not have to. Children use their imaginations to play with a toy or some object they imagine is something other than what it is, and they develop their brains unknowingly.

Activities such as interactive play with inanimate objects or engaging in sports or games with others help with brain development. It’s important that children are given the opportunity to play at a young age. They don’t need the best toys — just some space and some friends.

Children who play regularly tend to be better students. If they play well with others, they tend to have more friends and be more socially developed. This results in a child who cooperates naturally and is generally more empathetic towards others. Children’s vocabulary also increases when they talk during play. It’s like anything else. If you practice, you get better at whatever you are doing.

Pretending to Learn

Children’s imaginations can be quite entertaining. Children often make up long stories to explain something they did wrong or failed to do. It isn’t really lying — it’s more like hyper-creativity. It shouldn’t be discouraged unless it’s blatant lying or a frequent distraction from reality. You can always ask them, “Are you sure that’s what happened?” and gauge their answer for the truth.

Children who pretend often do better at imagining different possibilities and outcomes. They are like miniature scientists testing out hypotheses and theories. They compare what they expect or want to happen in any given situation to the actual results of their actions. They can’t help but learn from this.

You don’t want them sticking things in electrical outlets or anything like that, but you do want to give them the chance to imagine and learn things on their own. Remember playing with a refrigerator box? That was hours of fun. It can be a house, a boat, a spaceship or a secret fort. They might want to color it, cut out windows or design it to match their imagination of what it is to them.

Play While They Can

Childhood is a time of wonderment and adventure. There is nothing like watching your child holding a desperate frog as they tell you the exciting story about catching it. When they tell you at age five about taking off and riding around the neighborhood on your neighbor’s motorcycle, you might be frightened at first, but soon you will realize your son or daughter just has an amazing imagination.

Giving them the chance to play and develop their imaginations and creativity will make your child a better student and a better friend to others. They will also be a lot of fun to be with.

We want our children to learn as much as they can and to achieve their greatest potential. We all grow up eventually. Let your child play for now as often as you can. Someday that child won’t have as much time to play, but they will be better off for having had those memorable experiences.

One response to “Letting Your Children Play Is Good for Their Brains”

  1. Alayne Langford says:

    Play time is so valuable for children. They really need to explore and use their imaginations! 🙂

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