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Why Playtime is important for preschoolers

There’s an age old saying that goes: “All work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl!”. While that might seem quaint, in some respects today, the trained staff at daycare in Olney know the wisdom of that saying well. Playtime for preschoolers not only builds a child physically, but it also improves their cognitive and socio-emotional wellbeing. Without playtime embedded in a child’s learning and leisure schedule, young kids might not move down a path of healthy development of mind and body. Nor would they learn many of the skills needed later in life.

Importance of Playtime

Kids and playtime go hand in hand. So, it’s natural for anyone who sees a group of children playing, to think all that’s happening is kids having a good time. Not true! Playtime delivers more than just a “kids being kids” experience to youngsters indulging in play. And youngsters, engaged in fun-filled play at a preschool in Olney MD, are having more than just fun.

In play, kids gain much more than letting off steam and burning pent-up energy. Some of the benefits that preschoolers get from play includes:

  • Build fine and gross motor skills
  • Develop healthy bones and muscles
  • Gain confidence in their movements
  • Get a boost in their self-esteem
  • Through falling, stumbling, and hits and bumps, they develop resilience and toughness
  • Playing freely gives them a sense of independence

As kids go through their playtime routines, they certainly hone their physical fitness. But they also begin to perfect their sense of balance, hand-eye coordination, develop agility and flexibility, and build stamina.

Beyond the Physical

But a lot of the above are physical reasons why playtime is important for young kids. They focus on getting kids out of their chairs and off couches, away from their desks, and running, jumping, and moving about – either individually, or as part of a team of players. But children attending formal learning and caregiving settings, like daycare in Olney MD, also gain from emotional and cognitive benefits of playtime:

  • Some types of play help them make critical decisions
  • Group play forces them to interact with other kids and adults
  • They learn social skills, like sharing toys, and waiting patiently for a turn at a swing or slide
  • Many toys and games are new to youngsters, which inspires curiosity and sparks their senses of discovery
  • Cooperation and coordination are hallmarks of some games, which preschoolers learn through play at a young age
  • Play teaches children to explore their feelings by listening to other playmates, and responding to playtime cues
  • Playing together with peers and adult caregivers helps children learn to express their own feelings too
  • It builds on their verbal and non-verbal communication skills

More importantly, playtime helps children understand the importance of dealing with challenges and difficult situations. If a child is unable to build a brick castle at their first attempt; or if the structure tumbles as they hoist the final piece, it makes them start from scratch. While that’s a lesson about dealing with a tough situation, it also helps them value persistence.

So, despite there being a lot of laughing, screaming, shouting and excitement during playtime at preschool in Olney MD, it’s not just fun and games that takes place. Woven into every play activity, and embedded into every toy and game, is the objective to develop preschoolers in mind, body, character, and spirit.

Balancing Playtime

By now, parents, guardians, and other homecare givers will have grasped the importance playtime has in the lives of preschoolers. Clearly, because play offers so many benefits, it might be good to let youngsters indulge in play all the time – right? Not entirely correct! We’ve also heard another saying, that goes something like this: “Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing!”. And the same holds true for playtime too.

A child’s playtime must be something they look forward to, and a part of their day that is “different” from the rest of their day. If all they did is play, then that may erode many of the previously highlighted benefits that playtime offers. For instance, because all they did was play games or play with toys, there’d be no sense of curiosity or discovery left to pursue. In fact, over indulgence in play might make play boring – an activity that kids could potentially shun.

Imagine what could happen to a child after weeks of unending play:

  • They’d likely suffer from exhaustion, and display prolonged signs of fatigue and tiredness
  • Playtime won’t excite or intrigue them any longer
  • They’ll rather sit on a couch, or watch TV, than kick a soccer ball or play skip a rope outdoors
  • It’ll breed lethargy and irritability in the child. They’ll feel mood swings and crankiness
  • Lack of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise will make kids ill and weak
  • Lack of physical movement might lead to obesity and other health conditions

One might argue that, since most preschoolers “learn through play”, they’re really playing all the time anyway. Not quite true. Neither too much, nor too little playtime is good for preschoolers. That’s why the administrators and staff at daycare in Olney MD plan and balance playtime carefully.

Play activity is an integral part of the day care’s curriculum, and the center embeds some play into learning activities. However, there are also designated playtime segments in a child’s day, where all they do is have fun and enjoy themselves – free from paying attention to books, or learning to write the alphabet.

Playtime in a Digital Era

We now live in a digital era where “play” is more common on virtual playgrounds than in physical play environments. For instance, kids play soccer on a soccer field; but they can also sit on a couch and play soccer virtually, with their friends. While some virtual play is healthy for youngsters, aiding in building mental acuity, tuning fine motor skills, and perfecting hand-eye-movement and coordination, left unregulated, digital play can be harmful, robbing preschoolers of the joys and benefits of “real world” playtime.

You might think: Well, digital playtime isn’t a problem for preschoolers, because it’s unlikely they’ll play with digital toys at that age? Wrong!

The Pew Research Center has found that some parents grant access to smartphones to kids below 4-years old – and some as young as 2-years of age. It’s likely that the vast majority of those parents supervise access to those devices. However, playing a game on a smartphone or tablet, isn’t the same as playtime at a preschool in Olney MD. Even while closely monitored, the child doesn’t learn the same skills as when he/she plays with other kids – whether in the classroom or the playground. And, virtual play doesn’t tap a vast majority of the same mental and physical faculties that in-person playtime does.

While screens of all sizes can add some excitement in the lives of young children, experts warn about exposing preschool-age kids to screen play too early. It’s no wonder then, that the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests having no screen time for babes and toddlers under 2-years of age, and no more than 1-hour of screen time a day for those aged 2 to 4-years old.

Despite those strict guidelines for digital play, there’s no doubt that online play is very much a part of our kids’ lives today, and it’s important for us to learn to weave it into the fabric of an overall preschooler’s playtime regime. But, how can parents, guardians, and caregivers do that? Well, here are some best practices:

  • If only to inject some variety in a child’s day, allow for limited online play – but closely supervise their activity
  • Discourage kids from playing passive games, and encourage them to choose games where they actively interact with the environment: Making specific decisions; responding to a dynamic situation; actively making choices about the course of the game
  • Vet each game thoroughly, including the type of data kids must provide, and the themes and storylines involved (avoid games containing violence or other destructive themes)

Closely monitored, regulated, and supervised digital play can become an important part of any playtime strategy. The trick is to include age-appropriate games, that not only stimulate mental activity, but also encourage the physical aspect of play.

Blended Playtime

Digital kids need digital playtime. But online or virtual playtime alone, is no substitute for the types of experiences that playtime activities at daycare in Olney MD offer. Some virtual games, like Play-Doh, are great for unlocking young children’s creative streaks. Others, like Pokémon GO, can help children run around and get on the go. These are important skills that children in today’s digital era must cultivate at a young age.

However, parents, guardians and caregivers mustn’t lose sight of the fact that there are also other experiences – more tactile, in-person ones – that digital play can’t deliver, but which traditional playtime provides to preschoolers. The best solution is to follow the advice of the experts and create a happy blend of selective online play, while also stressing the need for in-person playtime with peers, siblings, and groups of childre

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