UNPLUG THOSE ELECTRONIC GAMES – WHAT PLAY IS TEACHING OUR KIDS

Why should we, as parents, breathe a sigh of relief when our kids put down their tablets, computers, or phones and pick up an action figure, dress up outfit, or hula hoop? Because we know balance is key! Electronics time isn’t tragic – it just needs to be balanced with reading, building,drawing, exploring, imagining, and exercising. But why? What is it that kids get out of non-electronic games that they don’t get anywhere else? Read on to find out.

Pretend Play –It's really sweet listening to your child act out a scenario using dolls. action figures, stuffed animals, or play props like kitchen and doctor sets. But pretend play isn’t just cute! Dramatic play helps kids explore the different roles they see in their lives, from parent to friend to baker to builder, developing not just an understanding of the world around them, but also building empathy skills. Also, pretend play with a friend helps kids learn to take turns, problem solve, and play cooperatively. Coming up with pretend story lines develops imagination and creative thinking skills. And “acting out” that pretend play scenario develops vocabulary and language skills.

Arts & Crafts – Coloring, drawing, and crafting with tools like crayons develop creativity and encourage self-expression. But creating also develops fine motor skills, the kind required to hold a pencil or paint brush, and bilateral coordination, the process of using both hands together, as in one to hold the paper and the other to cut it with scissors. Artistic creation also teaches trial and error, patience, and perseverance. And, best of all, creating is an incredible confidence booster – no right or wrong answer, just pure joy.

Building – Whether it is with blocks or other, more advanced, construction sets, the benefits of building are nearly endless. A perfect learning activity, building introduces key scientific principles: gravity and balance, engineering concepts: arches and towers, mathematics concepts and academic vocabulary including grouping, sorting, counting, addition, and subtraction . And, of course, manipulating blocks also develops motor skills and hand-eye coordination, too.

Outdoor Play – Aside from reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and the great outdoors, kids who play outside are exploring and discovering, developing and quenching scientific curiosity, and gaining self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Games & Puzzles – Games are great for getting your family laughing and playing together, but they’re good for more than fun! Playing games helps kids develop thinking and reasoning skills, strategic problem solving, spatial awareness, concentration, and focus. Word games develop language skills and vocabulary, while dice and math games  build and practice math concepts and facts. Game play also helps younger children develop social skills like taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

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We all need some down time and electronics are a great distraction. But the benefits to be gained from non-electronic games are not to be overlooked. Be sure to balance electronic time with some of the above ways to play each day!

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