Childhood Unplugged — The Importance of Play From Birth and Beyond

Toddler playing peek-a-booChildren today are surrounded by flashing lights, screens and plenty of noise. Going unplugged doesn’t need to be a punishment; it can instead be the key to a world left unexplored.

As a busy homeschool mom of four kids 8 years and under, believe me there are days I long for nothing more than a little peace and quiet. The unfortunate thing is that we have become a society that heavily relies on over-stimulating our children with electronic devices.

I often ask myself what happened to the days of bike riding with friends and endless hours of child’s play? I can tell you – it has been replaced with an electronic pacifier.

Why You Should Ditch the Electronic Babysitters and Take Action or Why Play Matters and Why You Should Bring it Back into Your Home

1. Play helps develop necessary social, physical, emotional and cognitive skills.

Childhood play helps aid brain development – simple games like “peek-a-boo” for baby have proven to help stimulate the brain without the over stimulation of an electronic device.

We’ve all seen the parent who puts their baby in a bouncy seat smack dab in front of the television just so they can get dinner done, right?

Children’s brains rapidly grow in the first 3 years of life – and the stimuli children are exposed to during this time can have a profound effect on their development.

Images that are viewed on a screen differ from those in real life experiences. Although an infant may be mesmerized by the bright colors and flashing lights, they are incapable of making sense of it at this time.

An image on a television is 2D and most objects in real life are 3D- in order to fully understand the workings on a screen one must be able to think abstractly – a skill not developed until well past the age of two.

2. A child’s first experience with love and trust comes through play interaction.

Children learn to love by being loved and mimicking their modeled surroundings. Be the parent you want your child to become – they are always watching you.

The greatest compliment one can give is copying, repeating, or imitating ones behavior and/or actions – think before you act, respond before you react, and apologize for your wrong doings.

3. Childs play helps develop relationships and acceptable personal boundaries.

We all know by now the greatest amount of success in life comes from having the ability to work well with others – interdependence as oppose to independence.

Of course we want our children to work well by themselves, but life is about community, relationships and team work. Childhood play is simply the practice playing field. There is no other time in life that we can learn negotiating skills, how to share, keep boundaries, defend a stance, break a few rules, and still be loved just the same.

4. Play allows a child to explore their inner most feelings, make mistakes and remain free of failure.

Children have the opportunity to explore their own interests and develop the necessary skills in a safe environment.

Just as structured adult led play is important, so is independent imaginary play. These are the moments that a child can explore and hone in on what he or she enjoys most – this alone may be the very key to his or her future. Embrace their gifts, encourage them and provide countless opportunities to explore the world around them.

Play evolves through the various stages of development but the learning never ends. In infancy and early childhood, children can most often be seen playing independently. At this stage they lack the social, physical and cognitive capabilities to fully interact with others.

As a child further develops, they can often be seen parallel playing (side by side) and/or taking part in cooperative play a highly organized form of play typically with a chosen “leader”.

In all of these scenarios a child is learning how to mingle within their surroundings – be it the people or a particular environment – they are learning acceptable boundaries, developing their physical motor skill capabilities, language skills and building self-esteem all yes, all through play.

How many hours a day do you let your child(ren) use electronics (including the television)?

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Jenny Irvine

Jenny Irvine is a homeschool mom raising nearly a handful of food sensitive gluten free kids. Jenny blogs at MyHappyHomestead where she shares recipes, DIY projects, the ups and downs of raising a healthy, happy, food intolerant, homeschool family.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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