The Benefits of Playtime: How Extracurricular Activities Help Children’s Behavior

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” This insight is more than just a piece of good philosophy: Emerson really nailed the essence of how play can positively impact behavior and children. For children, playing is not just a silly and completely optional extracurricular activity. It’s an essential tool in their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

Here are five benefits that extracurricular activities can deliver to not only children, but also their parents and the classrooms where they learn.

Benefit No. 1: Improved Physical Development

Ask any child why they enjoy climbing on playground equipment, participating in team sports, and doing laps at their local school, and their response will likely be, “It’s so much fun.” While the fun element is certainly important, research has shown that playtime delivers the following physical benefits:

  • Improved motor skills and reflexes
  • Building strong muscles
  • Improving heart and lung function
  • Preventing obesity

With so many kids captivated by technology today, extracurricular activities will ensure that they get a healthy balance of physical and mental stimulation.

Benefit No. 2: Encourages Learning

Studies have shown that playtime is an important part of a child’s brain development. According to Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., children pay more attention to schoolwork when they are given brief yet frequent opportunities to play freely. They also feel more confident about their academic endeavors and have an easier time articulating what they learn.

Mr. Rogers probably summarized it best when he said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

Benefit No. 3: Encourages Creativity

CEOs across the globe agree on one thing: creative thinking is essential to overcoming challenges. When you allow children to indulge in free play, you enable them to:

  • Learn behavior control and autonomous thinking
  • Improve their ability to focus
  • Enhance their problem-solving skills
  • Become more creative in their reasoning and judgment

Playing teaches kids about actions and consequences, which will enable them to make better decisions as adults.

Benefit No. 4: Releasing Emotions from Trauma

Emotional health is just as important is physical health, and playing is therapeutic for children who may be distressed or emotionally traumatized by divorce, child/domestic abuse, or the aftermath of overwhelming events like war or natural disaster.

When playing, these kids can diffuse pent-up negative emotions and share their feelings by ‘playing out’ the things that upset them. Once they are feeling more secure and better about themselves, they find it easier to cultivate healthy relationships with their family, peers, and teachers.

Benefit No. 5: Building Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Both free play and using playground equipment present children with the opportunity to take risks and master physical challenges. Afterwards, they feel more accomplished, which in turn promotes a healthy sense of self-esteem. Their social development is also improved when they indulge in games that call for conflict resolution and teambuilding.

With technology being central to modern life, children are at risk of becoming more sedentary and spending less time on play. Parents and teachers can create a healthier balance of screen time and playtime by exposing younger kids to the playground frequently and facilitating after-school sports and activities for older children and teenagers. These steps are simple to take and the benefits are both clear and significant. Contact MCUSA today to learn how we can help.

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Written by MCUSA