Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Play time typically evokes an image of happy and carefree kids, going about in a play area, basking in the innocent pleasures of childhood, and filling stressed-out adults with nostalgia. While playing is indeed an enjoyable activity, the benefits of play extend as play therapy for children who have been under fire. A slew of statistics this and last year shows how different instances of hardship permeate the idealized untroubled world of children — an annual average of 1.5 million children having to endure the divorce in their family, 54% or more than half of children living with remarried parents, single parents, or no parent at all, one in four children living in poverty and distressed by instability at home (or homes because of constant moving). Aside from facing changes at home, children can also face problems like rejection and bullying in school, crimes and abuse, and a lot more. These can strike anytime during their critical formative years and can have negative long-term implications to young minds that have yet to fully take hold of reality. While it is impossible to shield children from every hard fact of life, parents, along with child advocates in the community, can help children cope. One of the things that concerned adults can use is play therapy for children, which comes in many forms including active play in playgrounds. Play therapy activities serve as a tool for kids so they can bounce back better as they build resilience growing up in the real world.
According to the American Psychology Association (APA), “Building resilience — the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress — can help our children manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. This makes instilling resilience in your children a better option than potentially overprotecting and not letting kids experience life at all.” The world may not be perfect, but play therapy can make it a better place for children as they are on their road to recovery and resilience. Here are the benefits of play and how these put troubled children at ease. Helps Them Channel and Communicate Their Emotions Children, especially those in stressful situations, have difficulty processing their emotions, but play therapy can make it easier. According to Dr. Beth Onufrak, a clinical child psychologist specializing in early childhood, play therapy helps children draw out and express feelings that otherwise would be very difficult to get out on the table. “Another way it helps is by helping children label their emotions, which helps them both conquer the feelings that they are experiencing and also communicate them to adults so the adults can be of more help to them,” she adds.
Provides a Healthy Escape Play therapy provides children in distress the much-needed break. APA suggests that while sticking to routines is important, adults should make sure that the child takes a break and focuses on something besides what is worrying him. Letting the child play will help prevent him to dwell on the problem. More importantly, it prevents troubled children to explore other escapes which could only do them harm. You can take proactive steps and coordinate with the school in making sure that your child gets enough break time. Gives Them a Strong Body that Leads to a Strong Mind Engaging children in active play, rather than just letting them be glued to gadgets and the television screens, delivers many health benefits including healthy and stable weight, which prevents obesity, less chances of developing chronic diseases, development of strong muscles and bones, and better posture. In addition, a 2014 study found out that strong muscles “filter a toxin from the brain and keep depression at bay,” making psychiatrist Andrew Miller of Emory University in Atlanta say that the research “really emphasizes ‘strong body, strong mind.’” Active play also brings less stress and anxiety, enhanced creativity as a result of playing “pretend” during active play, and stronger self-confidence.
Makes Them Connected Scientific American says in their article that aside from the child’s characteristics, coping styles can also influence his or her resilience. The article goes on to cite that children who “seek social support are more resilient than those who rely on distraction and avoidance.” Aside from fostering a strong support system at home, APA says parents should encourage children to be a friend in order to get friends. So get them to play outside as good old fashioned play time helps children meet other children and make new friends in ways that online games and social network sites cannot. They will not only be fit, but will also get to be competitive in the healthy sense as they go around and interact with other kids.
Fills Them with Good Memories With all of the above-mentioned benefits of play, especially making connections and building friendships, children will have a stock of pleasant memories. Each memory will be a page in their life no matter how tough times can be. The more memories that are worth looking back on, the better the world will be to them. These snippets of joy will be their reservoir of strength as they survive growing pains and go on to happy adulthood. Play therapy not only makes children physically and emotionally healthy, but also helps them learn skills that they can use in real life like relaxing, communicating, and connecting with others. Parents and communities should be there every step of the way of play therapy. As Onufrak says, “Child coping is a joint venture between adult and child, whether that is a parent, a teacher, a day care provider, or any other adult in a child’s life.”
PlaygroundExpedition.com strongly supports and advocates active play as a form of play therapy for children by keeping children’s needs and safety in mind as they design and build playground tools. No one knows what storms life may throw at your kids, but you can definitely do something. Soon enough, children will earn their battle scars and will still appreciate everything there is to life.