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5 Ways That Children Can Play — And Learn Life Lessons

Kids spend a lot of time at school — and you’ll often hear them complaining about how it’s actually too much time. While it’s true that kids need to dedicate a certain amount of time each week to their academic schoolwork, there is some truth to the fact that some children are overworked. Or perhaps it’s more difficult for kids to go to school now than it once was because they’re spending too much of their time looking at screens rather than engaging in creative play.

Playing is important for children, and one of the most vital ways that they can learn is outside of the classroom. Think of some of your most important childhood memories — they probably occurred when you were playing. We build friendships through play, improve our motor skills, and much more. Playing is essentially practice for the skills that we’ll need in adulthood. A lot of kids have been deprived of this valuable practice time because they spend too much of their day relatively isolated while playing video games, watching television, or hanging out on their tablets or phones. With that being said, the impulse for many parents is to make their children devote all of their time away from those activities to studying or homework. In fact, these children should still have fun and play — but in a manner that is an alternative to screen-based activities. With that being said, let’s look into some of the best ways that children can play and improve both their minds and bodies.

1. Sports

Not every child is cut out for sports in the long term. We seem to live in an all or nothing society, wherein kids must be great at sports or there is no reason for them to engage in such activities — as if sports aren’t, in fact, games. There are so many benefits to signing your child up for a sports team, starting at a young age. For one thing, there are so many different types of sports that it’s more than likely that your child will find something that he or she likes. Right now, the top five American sports are football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer. Chances are that your child will like one of these sports — and working on a team teaches a number of great life skills. These include collaboration, goal-setting, humility, and of course important social routines. Your child will learn about what it really means to be a “good sport.” Of course, you don’t need to choose a sport with large teams; individual or pairs sports, like tennis, are also great options. There’s a reason why tennis is on the rise, with the Tennis Industry Association reporting that participation in the sport has risen by 1%, reaching 17.9 million players. No matter what sport your child chooses, they can’t go wrong.

2. Playing In Nature

Going out and enjoying nature is vital to the growth of young children. Even children who grow up in the city can reach the natural world, whether through parks or even camping, as well as hiking trails. Going on a nature walk with friends and family allows children to do things like collecting and identifying leaves and rocks, as well as birdwatching. These types of activities are ways for them to experience the science they’ll learn about in school firsthand. Camping, additionally, can give them valuable practical skills that they may use later in life, and exposes them to another lifestyle. You can’t forget fishing; this classic pastime was enjoyed by over 49 million Americans in 2017, who participated in freshwater, saltwater, and fly fishing. Fishing encourages contemplation and teaches children a lot about the ecosystem.

3. Puzzles

Puzzles are associated with rainy days; a lot of adults don’t have the patience for them. But perhaps they would if they’d played with them as children. In fact, puzzles trigger the release of dopamine, which makes people happier and more content. They encourage children to think logically, and to use their visual identification skills. Furthermore, working with puzzles encourages patience and critical thinking. It can actually help children learn to concentrate in general!

4. Art

Encouraging your child to paint, draw, or sculpt is incredibly beneficial. Not only do a lot of children desire creative outlets — often becoming frustrated without them — but encouraging them to pursue art can ultimately lead to them discovering new passions. Artistic talent needs to be nourished from a young age, especially if you want your child to strengthen their skills. All that said, children don’t have to be particularly talented to benefit from artistic play. Simply being able to express themselves, and to learn what that means, is incredibly important.

5. Board Games

There are a wide variety of different board games on the market, some classic and some new. It may be difficult to pull your child away from a video game and direct them towards a board game — but it’s ultimately worth it. Board games are creative, and force children to think strategically, but in a way that they even realize is teaching them anything. Some games may involve play money, which can allow children to work on their math and understand more what it means to spend and save money. Others may require deductive reasoning. These games are a great way to slip in lessons.

It doesn’t really matter how your child plays — that’s really up to their preferences. What matters is that they do play, and learn through playing. Perhaps, at the end of the day, playing will also teach kids that learning is fun!

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