Essential play experiences for a joyful childhood

Many of us remember our childhoods with a sense of nostalgic joy. We remember our toys, playing in the grass, being outdoors. If that is the case, you probably also worry about today’s children.

Are they playing enough? Are they on electronics too much?

Electronic playmates

What you have to remember is that play is play, even when it looks different, and by definition is “an activity that is done purely for pleasure”. Still worried about whether children are getting the play that is important for their development?

Here are five play experiences that can be shared with children for a balanced and joyous childhood . . . and perhaps a little fun on the adult’s part.

Building blocks

  1. Building with blocks

Children love to create and build. While they are building towers they are also developing dexterity and balance, and learning science, design, and physics lessons. If you build with them they learn to work together, communicate, and sometimes even negotiate.

And who doesn’t enjoy knocking the tower down at the end.

  1. Pretending and make-believe Make believe

As a practical use, it is a dress rehearsal for real-life. Pretending to be mommy or daddy or another adult in their life. In its more fanciful form, it is storytelling and pretending to be imaginary creatures such as mermaids or dinosaurs. Regardless of what they are pretending to be it is important for children’s mental health and especially important during stressful times.

  1. Running around like crazy

Physical movement and exercise is important to everyone’s well-being and allowing children to experience that early is important to life long health. Give children the space to run, skip, dance, and just be crazy.

We could all benefit from a little time to let loose and move.

  1. Cuddling something soft and small

Cuddle time

Many people probably remember their special stuffed animal and the unique name they had for it. Or perhaps it is a blanket, t-shirt, or other soft item? Allowing children to latch on to something for a time is one of the first ways children learn to connect with something and helps them practice being kind, helpful, and compassionate.

  1. Laughing, joking, and other general sillinesssilliness

Who doesn’t enjoy hearing a baby’s first laugh or the toddler belly laugh that is filled with pure joy? Humor teaches us to deal with surprises and incongruity. As children age their developing language and cognitive abilities allow for more advanced humor such as word puns. Regardless of age, humor helps us connect and makes it easier to make friends.

These are just half of the essential play experiences you can offer to the children you know. Find out more about these and the other five essential play experiences in Ann Gadzikowski’s newest book, Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences.

And we would love to hear about your favorite play experiences from your own childhood or those you like to experience with the children in your life today.

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