Don’t underestimate child’s play. It may look like leisure time, but when children are playing house, or playing Cinderella, fighting dragons, organizing a game of hopscotch, they’re actually developing crucial life skills — and preparing their brains for the challenges of adulthood. Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages. This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.
In infancy and early childhood, play is the activity through which children learn to recognize colors and shapes, tastes and sounds‚ the very building blocks of reality. Play also provides pathways to love and social connection.
Elementary school children use play to learn mutual respect, friendship, cooperation, and competition. For adolescents, play is a means of exploring possible identities, as well as a way to blow off steam and stay fit. Play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Play Expert, Dr. Stuart Brown has spent decades studying the power of play in everyone from businesspeople to artists to Nobel Prize winners. He’s reviewed over 6,000 “play histories,” case studies that explore the role of play in each person’s childhood and adulthood. Dr. Brown found that a lack of play was just as important as other factors in predicting criminal behavior among murderers in Texas prisons. He also found that playing together helped couples rekindle their relationship and explore other forms of emotional intimacy. You can hear more about the importance of play in the development of life skills on Dr. Stuart Brown’s TED talk on play.
PLAY WITH KIDS!
Now that school is out for the summer take advantage getting out playing with your children.
Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through childlike eyes. Go for a swim at anyone of the many outdoor pools. Roll up your pants – take off those shoes and socks and splash about in anyone of Burlington’s many splash pads. In fact, Burlington has two new splash pads for you and your kids to explore. One in Orchard Park and the other in Millcroft Park. (For a full listing of Burlington’s Splash Pads go to Burlington Website – Parks, Trails, and Sports Fields). Other fun ways to play with kids is to go to a playground or build sandcastles at Beachway Park or fly a kite in anyone of the many Parks Burlington or go for a bike ride along the waterfront trail. There are so many ways to engage in unstructured play. Enjoy!
GET INTO ACTING!
Play acting is also another way for adults and children to connect into the imaginative world of play. And Burlington’s Student Theatre can most certainly testify to the rewards and benefits of participation in play. Not only do children and youth have SERIOUS fun – they gain valuable life skills that promote self confidence, encourage public speaking and teach children to become comfortable in front of others. As kids gain more confidence they also gain self-esteem. Theatre programs also support and encourage cooperative group dynamics and students learn to collaborate with people of all ages who come from all backgrounds. Drama also help individuals to learn to get in touch with a character’s feeling and thoughts and this can give kids an understanding of empathy and how to effectively communicate their feelings.
With a focus on wellness, Burlington’s Student Theatre programs are offered for ages 6-18 years of age and school year programs, summer performing arts camp, performance shows and festivals, community outreach and civic engagements. Good news there is a few spaces available for this year’s summer performing camps! Burlington’s Student Theatre also provides the community with a location for renting space and a performance venue for local performing arts companies and community organization. For more information on Burlington’s Student Theatre check out the summer live and play guide or visit the website www.burlington.ca/studenttheatre. Oh, and you can also check out live performance of the kids in action! Burlington Student Theatre will be presenting Disney’s Tarzan at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on July 11. Tickets are only $15.00 and you can purchase them on-line or by calling the box office at 905-681-6000.
Give yourself permission to play every day! Take our 30 day challenge to help keep you motivated and engaged in play for 30 minutes a day ever day for 30 consecutive days. Tracking tools are available on the Live & Play website. Go to: www.burlington.ca/play.
Any time you think play is a waste; remember that it offers some serious benefits for both you and others.
CONGRATULATIONS to Kim Harris for winning a $100 Burlington Parks and Recreation Gift Certificate in Week 3. Don’t forget you too can WIN by sharing how you play with us. Simply submit your “Play” entry on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #LivePlay (Hashtag)! Weekly draws for twelve consecutive weeks for your chance to win! See contest rules and regulations on www.burlington.ca/play.