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Ilana Danneman
BY Ilana Danneman

The Power of Play | 7 Benefits of Play Time

I was dropping my car off at the dealer. As the repair technician came to pick it up, he noticed my then 8 year old son. “What is he playing with?” I looked over at my son. He was gesturing near the window, lost in his own game of pretend play. “Nothing,” I replied. “Well, he sure can entertain himself,” he said. “It’s the Power of Play,” I replied.

Play is the ability to engage with the world without purpose. Though it sounds frivolous, it’s actually like medicine for our brains, and it just may have one of the most significant impacts on our future as human beings.

Benefits of Play Time

When Charles Todd (Improv Everywhere) took his first desk job in NYC, he found that bringing play into the adult work world made everyone happier. Stuart Brown, age 82 and director of the National Institute for Play, studied the aggression of criminals. He discovered that there was a direct correlation between lack of play and increased aggression. He found this consistently in 35 incarcerated criminals total.

Isabelle Banky, who is a primatologist, discovered that play actually suspends reality as we train our brain to explore new worlds.Play is the foundation for building relationships and fostering tolerance and trust. Play teaches us both creativity and resilience, as well as diversity and laughter, and it just may be the ticket to a better future. To adapt to the changing world, we need to play. In fact, during those times when it may seem least appropriate to play, it may be the most urgent.

So perhaps we appreciate play, but maybe we do not understood the full impact and power of play. Let’s take a look at some key ways to bring in play, not just into your child’s world, but into your world as well.

1. Creativity

Benefits of Play Time

Unstructured play can foster creativity. From pretending to be a dinosaur or a princess, building a fort, putting on a show, playing a game, or simply bouncing a ball, play fosters creativity. This is something that is universally true for any age.

2. Social Interaction

Benefits of Play Time

Play teaches us how to interact. When we are with other people, we learn the “rules” of how to properly navigate a social environment. We learn when we mess up, and when we are right on target. For those who don’t have innate social cues, interactive play is crucial. Starting with an adult or friend can be a good first step.

3. Empathy

Benefits of Play Time

Play encourages empathy. When neuroscientist Jeff Mogel studied empathy in strangers, he found that though we typically do not feel empathetic and in fact feel stress when around strangers, when play was introduced, not only did stress levels decrease but empathy increased.

4. Intelligence

Benefits of Play Time

There’s clear evidence that play makes us more intelligent and more productive. The brain literally lights up when we are involved in play. So, the question is – how can we bring play into the classroom to make learning more beneficial?

5. Happiness

Benefits of Play Time

It’s simple. Play just makes us happy, and as the frontal lobe of our brain lights up, the rest of the brain creates the symphony to support our state of play.

6. Motor Skills

Benefits of Play Time

Play teaches us how to move. It teaches us how to jump, run, climb, build, hide, crawl, balance and throw. But even for some with more limiting abilities, play can foster motor skills and can be adapted to meet their individual needs.

7. Sensory Integration

Benefits of Play Time

Play brings sounds, sights, smells, taste and touch to our nervous system in a way that structure cannot. It encourages a natural interaction and thus integration with the world around us. A ball for example has texture, sound, and visual appeal.

Bringing play into our everyday world may not only make us smarter and happier, but it may also make us more human.

(Excerpts taken from TED Radio hour/ Press Play)

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Benefits of Play Time


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Ilana Danneman

Written on July 19, 2016 by:

Ilana Danneman is a pediatric physical therapist with over 25 years experience in the special needs field developing 100's of products, blogging, providing customer education, and catalog direction. She has worked for both School Specialty and Fun and Function and currently is a contract blogger and product developer as well as home health pediatric and geriatric physical therapist. She is currently the owner of the idea therapist and can be reached at [email protected]
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