Let Them Play: Why It’s Okay To Let Kids Be Kids

Picture this:

You walk into your living room and the couch has been removed of all cushions, every Barbie you ever purchased is strewn across the floor, the dress-up box has been dumped out and filled with pots, pans, your grandmother’s vintage suitcase, that stack of papers from the office, a bag of marshmallows, and half of your collection of encyclopedias, and your children are half-naked, screaming into empty tubes of toilet paper (the unused toilet paper is in the bathtub).

Now before you start panicking about this imagined scenario, let me tell you this:

GOOD THINGS ARE HAPPENING.

When children are allowed to play, they are learning more than you will ever know. They are developing social skills, using their imagination, learning how to problem-solve, gaining fine/gross motor skills, and discovering countless aspects of the world that they live in.

For example, when a group of kids are pretending to work at an ice cream shop, they are learning how to socially interact with one another, how to take turns driving the truck, how to use their imaginations to invent all of the ice cream flavors, how to communicate with each other as the game progresses, and they are developing their fine motor skills every time they have to pick up and move those skinny popsicle sticks! Maybe they are even learning how to count all the popsicle sticks, or developing their cognitive ability to group things together (e.g. the ice creams go together, and the popsicles go together).

That’s a lot! So much is happening inside of them, even just through play!

Now, for us adults, sometimes our first instinct is to begin scolding and cleaning up the chaos. But let me tell you — by not allowing your kids to be silly, imaginative, creative, and free, you are shutting out a lot of opportunities for them to grow. Additionally, you are missing out on a perfect opportunity to be silly yourself and bond with your kiddos! I have worked in the field of childhood development for over four years, so trust me when I say that PLAY IS GOOD!

In an article in The British Psychological Society, researchers explained how “play” has a major role in a child’s cognitive development and consequent abilities to problem-solve and function creatively (Whitebread et al, 2009). Learning that takes place within a “play” environment cultivates necessary skills within a child’s physical and cognitive development, carrying far into their future education.

So the next time you see your kids at play, just relax and jump right in to play along! It is your chance to nurture their physical, emotional, and cognitive development.

Whitebread, D., Coltman, P., Jameson, H., & Lander, R. (2009) Play, cognition, and self-regulation: what exactly are children learning when they learn through play? Educational & Child Psychology, 26 (2), 40–50.