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The Benefits of Play for Children’s Development
Contemporary author, Diane Ackerman, once said, “Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning” and we couldn’t agree more! Can there be learning without play? Indeed. However, recent studies suggest a lack of joy in learning can lead to boredom and overall dissatisfaction in education.
Play has many health benefits, including physical fitness, cognitive function, and mental health. The beauty of PLAY is that it comes naturally to us all! Yup! Babies, children, and adults are all inherently masters of play.
Play is such an essential part of our lives that doctors are even including play on their prescription pads for children.
5 Benefits of Play for Children’s Development
1. Play Promotes Creative Thinking.
Play is essential for fostering a child’s imagination. Through play, children explore the world around them and develop unique problem-solving abilities beyond structured learning. According to a graph published on Linkedin, creativity tops the list of soft skills companies seek in employees.
2. Play Fosters Social Development.
Play allows children the opportunity to practice listening, compromising, and feeling empathy for others, according to an article published on Harvard.edu.
One of our most popular educational board games for early learners is Wake Up Stars. This adorable game helps young children identify and express emotions and practice storytelling.
3. Play Builds Strategy Skills.
Play can help children solve problems and actively look for solutions as they engage in critical thinking to overcome obstacles and adapt to challenging situations. Strategy board games are an excellent way to challenge young minds and help them develop early adaptability and problem-solving skills.
4. Play Can Help Children Learn Time Management Skills.
Some forms of play can even help children develop time management skills that will serve them into adulthood. Educational games with a timer, like Get Four and Score and ARTributes encourage quick thinking as players manage their time to score points before the timer runs out!
5. Play is Great for Cognitive Function.
According to Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge, “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain.”
When we play, we actively engage the prefrontal cortex of our brain, which is responsible for moderating social behavior, organizing ideas, and problem-solving. Furthermore, play helps us keep our brains sharp. It’s a case of “use it or lose it” when it comes to our brains. Engaging cognitive function is especially vital for brain development in children. Studies show it’s also critical for avoiding cognitive decline in adults.
Although we focus here on the benefits of play for children’s development, the benefits certainly do not plateau after primary school. Play is the foundation for intellectual curiosity for all ages! Studies show that teenagers also tend to do better on tests when they are engaged in what they are learning.
Ready to play? Game On! Break out some of these fun educational board games, puppet theatre, or jigsaw puzzles, and let’s make education an immersive experience for a lifetime of learning through play!
Take the Play Promise Challenge
Making time for PLAY can significantly boost our mental and physical well-being. An unplugged playful moment can set the tone for our day and spark joy and positivity for all those involved. Whether it’s an impromptu living room dance party or a round of your favorite card game, why not commit to the daily practice of PLAY with a Play Promise?
What is a Play Promise?
It’s the belief that everyone should make time for PLAY no matter their age or circumstance. We get it; making time for PLAY sounds FUN but may seem out of reach on days when we feel depleted or overwhelmed. However, like all healthy habits that enrich our lives, we always seem to feel better when we carve out time for them.
In fact, play has many health benefits due to the release of endorphins that studies show relieve stress, boost mental clarity, and spark creativity.
Shouldn’t everyone play if it’s so good for our mental health?
The answer is a resounding YES! Mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, babies, teens, and everyone in between. We all benefit from play! The healing benefits of play are just too good to be ignored. Not to mention, PLAY is one of the most accessible measures we can take to strengthen cognitive function and relieve stress.
Did you know Adults need PLAY just as much as children do?
Studies have shown that humans are hardwired to play, which may explain why those who lack playful tendencies may struggle with stress and depression.
Furthermore, The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending doctors prescribe play for children, not just for development but to reduce the toxic effects of stress. Perhaps adults need the same prescription? We think YES!
Why start a Play Promise in your home?
Let’s face it, some days are tough. We all have those “missed the bus, flat tire”- kind of moments. Still, a play promise is that small, daily gesture that allows families to check in with each other and promote positive feelings. Even a small commitment of 20 minutes a day has major returns on our well-being.
As tempting as it may be to classify PLAYTIME as non-essential make no mistake, play should be taken seriously. Did you know playing can boost your productivity? Yup, include creativity, collaborative skills, and cognitive function into the mix, and you’ll find playtime to be one of the essential tasks in your day.
How to work PLAY into your day
- Play an educational board game, card game, or marble game after dinner.
- Turn bedtime reading into playtime.
- Go outside on a nature scavenger hunt.
- Have 10-minute mini-sessions throughout the day.
- Work puzzles a little at a time.
- Do fun crafts together.
- Start a dinner-prep dance party.
- Play a social board game, like Asymbol in as little as 30 minutes.
- Explore a fantasy world with strategy board game, Amalgam.
Choose fun activities for everyone, and don’t be afraid to mix it up! If you need to schedule playtime into a planner, make it FUN with colored gel pens and stickers while getting the kids involved in the planning!
Remember: play is essential and should be your non-negotiable healthy habit, so resolve to start a Play Promise today!
The Importance of Social Play
by Dr. Toni Linder
Social Play, Skills, and Development
Make time for play! Playing and learning with games is not only fun, but it can also help children develop essential social competence that will benefit them throughout life. Children need to be able to communicate their own thoughts and feelings in some way and read others’ social cues. This means they need to be able to recognize the meaning of facial expressions, gestures, and words, and understand the reasons behind other’s actions.
Children learn these things through interactions with others, particularly in play. Emotional regulation, or the ability to control and express emotions in appropriate ways is also necessary for positive social interactions. We are socially attracted to people who are happy and fun to be with. On the flip side, children who are grumpy, easily frustrated, or angry are not so fun to play with! Behavioral regulation, or the ability to act in ways that are expected for the situation, is a companion skill to emotional regulation.
Another important social skill is being able to communicate (verbally or nonverbally) with others in a way that acknowledges the value of each other’s contribution to the interaction. Furthermore, learning to negotiate and compromise is another positive ability to gameplay.
These social skills develop through all interactions, beginning with initial care and play interactions with caregivers. Because play is such a pleasurable form of interaction, and children, therefore, seek out play, it is one of the best paths to gaining social competence! Many forms of play encourage interaction among peers. Block building, sports, gross motor play, and dramatic play all support developing social skills.
Games Encourage Social Play
Supporting social play is simple! Card and board games are a great way to help children learn positive social interactions with people of all ages.
- First, the rules are built-in, so there is no need to negotiate how to play. However, you may find that younger children like to make up their own rules!
- Second, turn-taking is required, so children learn to wait for their turn (e.g., patience). This also provides an opportunity for kids to pay attention to someone else’s play (e.g., social awareness).
- Third, in most games, someone wins, and the other players lose. Consequently, players need to learn to be a “good loser.” Being a good loser means being able to feel good about another person being happy. This helps children understand and respond to another’s feelings. A good loser is also able to contain sad or frustrated feelings without acting out (e.g., modulate emotions). On the other hand, players must learn how to be a “good winner,” who is aware of others’ feelings and doesn’t gloat (e.g., empathy). Games of chance, where luck is primarily involved in winning, are often the first games children play, so they have little control over the outcome, which can be challenging!
Strategy Games Encourage Social Play in Older Kids
Games of strategy for older children have their own advantages and disadvantages, as well as learning opportunities. A sense of pride accompanies winning a strategy game while losing requires the child to reflect on what could have been done differently (e.g., self-reflection and flexible thinking).
With strategy games, players learn spatial reasoning, risk and reward, and sometimes specific academic skills. Players can discuss their moves and talk about their thinking. Paying attention to someone else’s ideas provides a way for children to learn strategy through observation and conversation. Whether the play was a good one or not is determined by the results, helping children to consider actions and consequences.
Gameplay benefits all areas of development, including cognitive, motor, and communication, but the development of social competence is one of the primary benefits of play. Are you ready to commit to the daily practice of PLAY?
Dr. Toni Linder is a leader in the field of early childhood development and early childhood special education. She’s also a member of our Play Advisory Council.
Award-Winning Games of 2021
Our Award-Winning Games of 2021 range from early-learning board games and educational board games for elementary students, to games the whole family can enjoy on game night! The best part? They are just as fun as they are educational, making learning a new subject engaging and interactive.
Let’s take a look at our award-winning and fun educational board games of 2021!
Ice Tumble is a fun strategy stacking game, but did you know it also received a Mensa Recommended Game seal in 2021? Mensa Recommended Games are a selection of educational games chosen by the nation’s most trusted game reviewers on the Mensa Mind Games board. This year, our popular Ice Tumble board game made the recommended list!
Asymbol is our popular social board game and educational board game for 8 year olds that focuses on exploring imagination and creativity. Players build 3D forms while their opponents try to guess what they are making. In 2021, Asymbol was honored with a whopping FOUR awards!
- NAPPA (National Parenting Product Awards). The National Parenting Product Awards have been reviewing games for 31 years. They are a go-to source for parents and educators seeking the best children’s products available on the market.
- Creative Child Awards: Creative Play of the Year Award. Creative Child Magazine’s Awards are tested and approved games submitted by moms, educators, and early education professionals.
- Mom’s Choice Awards-Honoring Excellence. Mom’s Choice Awards is a globally recognized panel of experts that evaluates children’s toys and games and highlights high-caliber family-friendly products.
- Parents’ Picks Award. Parents’ Picks Awards is a leading organization that showcases parent-tested and kid-approved toys and games. As a Parents’ Picks award winner, Asymbol underwent an approval process receiving high marks in 50 educational gaming criteria!
Shore Seekers is an island-themed addition and early multiplication board game where players help turtles migrate while practicing their math skills. This popular educational board game for elementary students received four awards in 2021!
- NAPPA (National Parenting Product Awards). NAPPA is one of the nation’s longest-running awards programs considered a “go-to” source for high-quality family-focused toys and games.
- Creative Child Awards: Preferred Choice Award. Shore Seekers won a Creative Child Preferred Choice Award in the Strategy Games category. Creative Child is a leading resource of creative toys and games that trustworthy game reviewers approve.
- Parents’ Picks Awards- 2021 Award Winner. Parents’ Picks Awards is one of the leading resources for parents seeking parent-tested and kid-approved toys and games. Shore Seekers was awarded a 2021 winner of ‘Best Elementary School Games.’
- Academics’ Choice Award. Shore Seekers won a Brain Toy Award by Academics’ Choice. Academics’ Choice is an educational gaming evaluation organization that helps parents select the best educational toys and games on the market.
Come fly with Rooby Roo as you learn your ABCs.
Rooby’s ABCs is an early learning board game that teaches both upper and lowercase letters and the alphabet sequence. Rooby’s ABCs is an award-winning early elementary game that received both a PAL Award and PAL Top 10 in 2021!
- PAL Award. PAL Awards select toys and games that advance language skills with a speech-language pathologist seal of approval. In 2021, PAL awarded Rooby’s ABCs for language development.
- PAL Top 10. Rooby’s ABC’s also made the Top 10 PAL Gift Guide list in 2021. The PAL Top 10 list is a trustworthy source of toys and games that earn high marks with children for playability and a speech-language pathologist seal of approval for language development.
Dish ’em Out is a zippy strategy game with a diner theme that won an Academics Choice Brain Toy Award in 2021. Academics Choice is a panel of qualified academics, teachers, and parents who recognize games that boost cognitive development. Dish ’em Out also received a Creative Child Awards 2021- Game of the Year for its strategy game playability.
Did you know this fascinating astronomy game was an Academics’ Choice- Brain Toy Award Winner? Academics Choice is a panel of qualified academics, teachers, and parents who recognize a selection of toys and games that boost cognitive development.
In Hazel’s Helpers, players sharpen their fine motor skills and practice decision-making to help Hazel and her siblings build a beaver lodge. In 2021, the National Parenting Center awarded Hazel’s Helpers with a Seal of Approval.
The National Parenting Center consists of a panel of child development experts who select products that help parents source the best educational toys and games on the market.
Four Reasons to Bring More Play into Your Life
When was the last time you relaxed and played? Playtime for adults shouldn’t be limited to rare occasions.
You might think playing is just for kids, but it’s incredibly beneficial for adults too. After all, wouldn’t it feel great to get that child-like joy back in your life on a regular basis?
Now’s the perfect time to make time for some adult recess.
More Time with Your Kids
Kids learn a wide variety of skills through play. It’s why playtime is so important for them. Why not join in on the fun? Not only do you get to feel like a carefree child again, but you get more time with your kids. They’ll love the extra time, and you’ll wonder why you ever stopped setting aside time to have fun.
Reduce Your Stress
Being an adult isn’t easy. Can you think of a day when didn’t feel stressed out? It’s not healthy for you. Play takes you out of your normal routine and instead of stress, you start feeling pleasure and joy. Even when you’re being competitive, you’re enjoying yourself. Regular playtime helps keep your stress at a manageable level.
When you’re less stressed, it’s easier to connect with others. Plus, if you take the time to play games with other adults and/or kids, you’re creating a bonding experience. You’ve probably noticed a surge in social and party games. They’re silly and make you laugh, but they also bring people together to have fun.
Boost Learning and Productivity
Taking a break from a hectic schedule gives you time to refresh your mind. Think of how much sleep benefits you. Play does the same thing. When you’re playing, you feel happier and more confident. You also relax. Those feelings carry over into the rest of your life. You might find that you have more energy, you retain information better, and you’re more productive at tasks. Kids use play as a form of education, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that playing helps adults learn better, too.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. You’re never too old to play. Play board games with other adults. Act out silly scenes from a book with your kids. Whatever you do, set aside dedicated time to play.
Ignite Your Child’s Interest in Learning
It’s not unusual for a child to either lose interest or not be interested in learning at all, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ignite that interest! Especially through educational board games.
Now is the perfect time to start getting your child excited to learn. With the right methods, your child will be eager to absorb knowledge and try out new skills.
The more time you spend fostering a child’s interest now, the easier it’ll be for them to learn as they get older.
Uncover Their Interests
Children of all ages and even adults learn better when the topic is something they’re interested in. For instance, a kid that loves basketball may absorb math concepts more easily if basketball and math were tied together, versus just trying to get a child to memorize math concepts via flashcards or a book.
The first step to igniting a passion for learning is to tie education to something the child already loves. If they have a favorite cartoon character, educational board games involving that character may get them excited. So much so that they won’t even realize they’re learning.
Make Learning Less Obvious
Structured learning is necessary sometimes, but it can also be extremely boring. Interactive or playful learning works much better. For instance, adults attending iPadpalooza didn’t exactly pay attention to dull lectures, but they learned about technology concepts through a fun race filled with playful challenges.
The same approach works for children. For instance, teach them reading skills by playing an educational game together that involves reading silly jokes off a card. Or, ask them to read you a bedtime story instead of you reading to them.
Sometimes children, especially school-aged children, lose their interest in learning because every mistake seems to lead to lasting consequences or feedback comes too late to make a difference. With free play and games, mistakes don’t matter. Instead, they’re learning opportunities. A child feels safe learning and wants to try again to do better.
As children build confidence through play-based learning, they retain their interest in learning in other ways as well.
Focus On Having Fun
Learning should be fun. Ignite your child’s interest in learning by focusing on letting a child learn naturally through games, free play, and their natural interests. Don’t try to force the issue. Your child will learn, but they’ll be more interested if they enjoy the process.
Play is Not Just a Little Word
Most of us think of play as this fun thing that we go do as we have time. What we don’t realize is that play is made up of nine specific activities that each bring added value to family life and skill development for your little ones. Just look…
- Gross Motor Play – Developing control of body movements for activities like sports, dance, and balance.
- Art Play – Building creativity, expressing a vision and creating an awareness of shapes, colors and forms.
- Pretend Play – Exploring different worlds and roles, creating empathy and understanding of differences and likenesses.
- Reading and Narrative Play – Learning to communicate our ideas and understand others.
- Fine Motor Play – Developing control of our fingers for writing, eating and all the small things that require precision movements.
- Construction Play – Building spatial reasoning by working with forms and objects to create something new.
- Sensory Play – Exploring our feelings including joy, laughter, pleasure and a sense of achievement.
- Music Play – Exploring the rhythms and cadences that are mathematical in nature.
- Game Play – Developing resiliency and a sense of fairness through winning and losing, taking turns, and being honest while using strategic thinking to solve problems.
OK, now you are thinking ‘How do I fit all that into my family life? Our days are packed already!’
Well let’s take a look and you may be pleasantly surprised at how many types of play are lurking around your daily life:
- Does your child run and jump? (Gross Motor Play)
- Does your child do collages? (Art Play)
- Does your child become a superhero, fireman or other characters? (Pretend Play)
- Does your child read or tell stories? (Reading & Narrative Play)
- Does your child draw and color? (Fine Motor Play)
- Does your child make forts or stack blocks? (Construction Play)
- Does your child repeat activities that are funny or snuggly? (Sensory Play)
- Does your child hum and sing? (Music Play)
- Does your child play educational board games? (Game Play)
Are you surprised at how many of your answers are yes? Don’t be, as we are all pre-wired to learn through play and we gravitate to these activities naturally. Encompassing all forms of play may be worth adding to your list after all because play builds skills that can be used throughout our whole life.
Isn’t it wonderful that play is not just a little word, but a big powerful word that can help your child grow and have fun at the same time?
Make a quick play list of your own. See how many types of play your little one engages in during a week. Note where they are excelling and where they may be falling short. Incorporate some activities, or maybe some educational board games, that touch on their strengths and challenges and have a little fun while you’re at it.
By Patty Pearcy, SimplyFun CEO
Our Mission and Our Family
At SimplyFun, we believe that children deserve an opportunity for success in the world. We also believe that play and in particular educational board gameplay, can help kids learn and practice the skills that will help them navigate the challenges they face in adulthood.
Stop for a minute and think about what happens when you play a game. Likely you see both math and language skills being used, which is great! But look a bit deeper and you will see kids practicing skills like focus and self-control, good decision-making, working towards a goal, building healthy social relationships, and developing physical competence. Basically, the skills we use at the game table are just ‘table size’ versions of the skills we need to achieve a successful life.
The future is in the hands of those who follow behind us, those youngest members that we care for today. They will be faced with solving many of the growing problems in our world which will take creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills to address – all of which they can learn through gameplay.
Our mission at SimplyFun is to create smarter kids and stronger families through the amazing power of play. It is a mission we take seriously from the rigor with which we develop skills within the context of each game. We intentionally pay attention to things like length of gameplay, repetitive play value, and expanding play across age groups in order to remove some common barriers to getting the family around the game table. And as an added benefit, we make it fun.
The benefits of play are amazing, and we hope you too take a moment to add play into your family life and share with us what happens.
By Patty Pearcy, SimplyFun CEO
Play is Even More Fun with Friends
When you think of kids playing, you often think of small groups running around together. While kids love this, it’s not just about having fun. Social play is also a vital part of a kid’s development.
Think about how much you enjoy spending time with your friends. The same is true for kids. It’s a special connection formed during playtime that helps kids grow mentally and socially.
Introducing Social Play
There are four introductory levels of social play for kids as established by Mildred Parten. These levels are still used today to show how quickly kids advance through socializing through play. When introduced to peers their own age, kids may start exhibiting social behavior as early as 18 months, though most start at around 24 months.
At this point, kids’ naturally inquisitive behavior leads to them showing off toys, learning to share, and even communicating simple feelings of happiness or disapproval. By three years, social situations help them learn how play together, express goals and start working out differences.
Develop Vital Skill Sets
Social play has the unique advantage of teaching some of the most vital skill sets for a child’s development. Playing with both peers and adults helps them to learn and improve certain skills, such as:
- Social and emotional
- Relationship building
One other noticeable skill is stress management. Studies have shown that not only do kids who play together have a more prosocial brain, but they’re able to better process and manage toxic stress, which can damage development if not managed properly.
Social Play Proven at Daycare
If you need more proof about the benefits of social play, look no further than daycare. A study tracked 1,428 kids from 12 months to 8 years to determine how children developed under different childcare situations. Children in daycare had better cognitive, academic, language, social, and behavioral skills than their counterparts. Why? They were constantly engaged in social play with their friends and even childcare workers.
While solo play is great too, social skills are vital to a child’s growth and what better way to do that than letting them play with friends. Plus, studies have shown kids with friends, even just one or two close friends, tend to be happier and healthier. It’s win-win for everyone involved.
Learn from Playing
Who doesn’t love playing with an infant!? We all love peek-a-boo, tickle, and chase games accompanied by bursts of giggles and laughter. When they are preschool age we love finger plays, songs, and tea parties. But as children move into school age, they can often entertain themselves, playing alone or with siblings or peers. While this independence is frequently welcomed, something valuable may also be lost.
Playing with your child allows you to discover their interests and passions. Follow your child’s lead and play with them with whatever they choose. If they want to play school, be the student. If they want to build with construction materials, work together to make a creation. If they want to play an educational board game, learn together. Watch what motivates them. What toys do they examine in the toy store? What board or card games do they select and play repeatedly? Children’s choices reflect their motivations, their interests, and their thinking style.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s mother saw that he loved building structures and provided many different construction possibilities for her child. Another child loved to dress in wild costumes and makeup and create her own plays. She became a fashion designer. A young boy dressed as a paramedic for Halloween and asked for a CPR training dummy for Christmas. He is now an EMT. Children’s passions and strengths emerge early and are often evident in their play.
Participation in the child’s play allows parents to learn about more than their child’s special talents and interests. Playing with your child also provides a fun arena for addressing areas that need encouragement or assistance. For example, you may see that your child has difficulty sharing or being a good sport about losing during play. By joining in the play, you can demonstrate how to be resilient, how to rebound from loss with a smile and congratulating the winner on a “nice game.” You can provide encouragement, model problem solving strategies, and reinforce sharing or positive social interactions.
Another key benefit of playing with your child is to nurture creativity. As children move into academic programs at the age of five and six-years of age, focus shifts to more structured learning, memory, and testing. The wonderful creativity shown in children’s art, dramatic play, and movement activities can be dampened as learning becomes more formalized. Creative thinking, or thinking and doing things in unique ways, is a valuable trait that should be cultivated. Generate ongoing opportunities for your child to express their creativity by making up stories, dramas, artwork, structures, dance, and music.
Make a point to get involved in some of your child’s or grandchild’s favorite activities and watch what happens. While these activities can be done with just kids, the mutual pleasure, expansion of ideas, and pure delight of all family members participating create strong family bonds and treasured memories for all to share.
Play Benefits Mental Health in Children
It’s not surprising that play benefits mental health in everyone, especially children. Maintaining good mental health is important to your overall well-being. What better way to support your child’s mental health than through PLAY! Let your child select their favorite learning board game or fun educational board game and watch their mindset shift, in a really good way.
“Time to play is more important now than ever,” says Dr. Toni Linder, a leader in the field of early childhood development. “Play of all kinds engages the pleasure centers of the mind, releasing endorphins associated with feelings of happiness.”
Benefits of Play
Play, especially social play, is one of the best ways children learn! It not only helps them develop essential social skills, but it can also aid in developing both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. These skills will benefit them throughout life.
Play is tons of fun! Children inherently love to play and will almost always say yes to a playtime opportunity. Play creates a foundation of stable mental health by allowing the brain to relax, which can relieve stress. It also enhances empathy, increases creativity, and promotes resourcefulness.
Many Ways to Play
There are many different ways to play to encourage strong mental health in children. Imagine or ‘pretend’ play, dramatic play, active play, and gameplay are all great examples of how to incorporate play into your child’s day.
Take the Play Promise Challenge
Play. Changes. Everything. Make it a priority to play as little as 20 minutes a day, and you’ll find it to be a transformative habit, and notice the benefits to your mental health. So pull out markers and paper, or an educational board game—you may find that the more you do it, the better you’ll feel, and the better you feel, the more you’ll want to play.