Today, a large amount of children’s time is spent on academics and test prep, in front of screens, and in adult-directed structured activities squeezing out time for free play both at home and at school. Yet, there is a wealth of research showing the many important benefits of child-directed, creative play (not to be confused with guided play or education game play) for children’s health, strength, and success.
Some benefits of child-directed play include:
Cognitive Growth. Play greatly improves academic performance, attention, executive functioning, and development of imagination and creative problem-solving.
Social and Emotional skills. Child-directed play helps children develop stress management, self-regulation, empathy, cooperation, iimpusle control and resilience.
Physical Health. During play, children move, run, climb, and stretch improving coordination, balance, motor and vestibular development and strength.
21st Century Skills. Child-directed free play enhances communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills.
Collected Play Resources
- TED Talk: Tales of Creativity and Play by Tim Brown. At the 2008 Serious Play conference, designer Tim Brown talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play — with many examples you can try at home (and one that maybe you shouldn’t).
- The Amazing Benefits of Child-Directed Play from Pop-Up Adventure Play
- The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children from American Academy of Pediatrics
- Facts on Play from KaBOOM!
- The Adult Role in Child-Led Play from Nature Play
- Taking Play Seriously The New York Times article, Jan. 29, 2018
- Playing while Black by Harrison Pickney, Corliss Outley, Aishia Brown & Daniel Theriault
- The Loss of Children’s Play: A Public Health Issue from Alliance for Childhood
- Loose Parts Play from Inspiring Scotland
- Handbooks from Playground Ideas
- Evidence from Playground Ideas
Build & Play is a community program of Sunflower Creative Arts, a Delray Beach based 501c3 nonprofit empowering children to be confident, creative and compassionate through Play, Nature and the Arts. We are funded by donors, grants, Sunflower Creative Arts, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, and The Jim Moran Foundation.