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Painted Brain | How Play Supports Kids’ Mental Health And Emotional Development
Kids playing leads to overall wellness
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How Play Supports Kids’ Mental Health And Emotional Development

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The sun sets as kids play outside

It’s a fact that the quality and quantity of time that kids have to spend playing these days is on the decline. So it is not surprising to hear that kids growing up in this generation spend about eight hours less playing every week than kids who grew up in the 80s. Unfortunately, this is a trend on the rise, and the WHO (World Health Organization) and American Academy of Pediatrics have warned that the consistent reduction in playtime for kids negatively affects them.

When they do not play enough, children miss out on different opportunities to build vital skills such as creative and critical thinking, collaboration, communication skills, etc.  

The last year was especially tough for everyone, and a lot of people’s mental health was tested, including children. So it is not surprising that there’s an increase in the mental health emergency for kids that is only getting worse because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, added to the economic crisis and the fight against racial inequalities. All of these were experienced in the last year, and they all took their toll on the mental health of many children in different ways. 

It may be frightening to admit, but it is a fact that there are several stressors at home, in communities, and in neighborhoods that affect children’s mental health, and we must realize the extent of impacts these stressors have on kids. Stress from family issues, school, economic situations, abuse, trauma, health issues, and other difficult childhood experiences significantly and negatively impact children. Unfortunately, over the last year, these stressors have increased.

In addition, they have been more accurate than before, leading to more reports of children’s behavioral issues, childhood depression, suicidal attempts, and several other mental health problems. 

However, the good news is that these adverse childhood experiences and resulting mental health concerns can be tackled easily. It is easy to support children’s mental health and emotional development and set them up to thrive and succeed in life through play. 

Play is essential for children in many ways. It helps them to learn about themselves, other kids, and the world around them. Play is as crucial to children’s growth and development as much as reading books, eating vegetables, and sleeping well at night is. The United Nations list it as a fundamental right of children to show how important it is. 

Freely chosen play

This has to do with when and how a child plays. The children decide to play, but they are also in total control of the play, following their interests, imagination, and instincts, without the leading or intervention of an adult. There are no rules to follow with freely chosen play, which improves the kids’ wellbeing, health, and development. It can be anything from playing video games, looking out the window, or sticking hands in mashed potatoes. 

Kids playing outside

by Robert Collins

Importance of play for children 

Play is vital for children to support their mental and emotional wellbeing. According to essay writing services, here are some of the benefits of plays for kids.

Building creativity and imagination 

Play helps to stretch the imagination of kids. They can create their make-believe games and enjoy their world. They act out solutions to playful problems, which boosts their confidence. They are able to develop their rules and adapt to them, and these skills are crucial to navigating life and developing good relationships with other kids. 

For instance, in symbolic play, children learn to imagine an object as something else. This is important for the kids’ healthy development as it builds their problem-solving and future learning skills. It also boosts their creativity, which is an essential ingredient for success. 

Foster cognitive development

Cognitive development is vital for the brain to thrive. Free chosen and unstructured play when kids choose and direct their play without being bound by activities or schedules or directions from adults helps develop their brain growth. It increases and strengthens the brain’s neural connections, which are the pathways for thinking in the brain. It also strengthens and builds the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which influences the way kids learn, solve problems, and gain knowledge. 

Behavioral and emotional benefits

Adults tend to retreat into relaxing activities when they are overwhelmed. We go for walks, to the gym, karaoke with friends, board games, etc., to distract us and bring back some play into our lives to relieve stress. It is the same for children. They typically need much more playtime, though, as it reduces stress, irritability, and anxiety. It also boosts their self-esteem and joy. Play teaches the kids to navigate their world understandably.

If you are an adult watching kids play, for instance, you can recognize their emotions and teach by naming them. You can tell them that they are nervous or scared when they display these emotions. They will learn about their feelings and also know how to communicate them better. It also promotes group work, sharing, teaches negotiation, conflict resolution, etc. 

Physical fitness

Children are naturally very active, so they feel a strong need to be part of physical plays. It is one of the ways that they learn the use of their bodies, and it strengthens the brain connections. So it is a perfect form of exercise for them, making them physically fit and healthier. 

Physical play has lots of benefits for kids, and some of them are:

  • Improves movement control
  • Sharpens reflexes
  • Develops greater balance
  • Improves motor skills
  • Increases cardio-vascular functions
  • Improves bone density

So, they are not just having fun; they are thriving in several ways.  


Kids must spend some time outdoors playing. It supports their mental health and helps them develop the ability to self-regulate. Make sure they get some good outdoor time, irrespective of the weather. It helps them to be happier, more relaxed, and improves their mental health and emotional wellbeing. Make it a duty to ensure that your kids spend time playing as much as possible for their own sakes. 


Author Bio

Sherri Carrier is a professional writer at pro essay writing service and a member of several writing clubs in New York. She has been writing her poems since she was a child. The young author gets inspiration from her favorite writers and people whom she loved. 

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