Why play time is important for our children’s development

1How many times have you heard your parents or an older family member say: “We truly enjoyed and lived our childhood” or “Back in the day, we used to go out and play in the streets, climb a tree house or play hide and seek, unlike your generation of kids”. Even when I look back at my childhood days, I remember spending endless hours on end on the swings, playing with pebbles and riding my rainbow tasseled bike in the park. But now that we’ve fast forwarded to the year 2014, things aren’t quite the same and I honestly think that it’s not fair to blame it entirely on the children of this generation.

My Yehia is one mini tornado. He loves to jump, play and run around. Kais and I decided to enroll him at Happy Learning Nursery so that he gets a chance to interact with other children and spend his time on activities that would help with his behavioral and social development. When we all call it a day and head back home after work, Kais and I don’t always have the energy to play with Yehia or run around the house with his toy cars. After what would seem like endless hours of constant nagging, we give in and pull out his iPad, or turn on the tv for him to watch some cartoons. We both know and hear of the negative impact of too much TV, but when it’s 8:00 PM and your kid is still in hyper mode, you’re just tempted to find the an easy way to keep the little one occupied.

Yesterday, I was invited to attend a conference, where the results of the 3rd Fun City’s Play Index were revealed.  The study, which covers four countries for three different age groups shows a significant increase in the time spent on passive playtime; this includes watching TV, surfing the internet, spending time on the tablets and playing video games.  Based on the index, watching TV has increased up to 16% in 2014 from 12% in 2013.

Not only that, the findings of the study show that for children within 2-3 years of age, only 31% percent of their time is spent on physical play which is staggeringly low. Engaging in physical activities and play time is vital for the development of toddler’s motor and sensory skills. Also, encouraging your little ones to spend time on creative and role play activities like painting, or playing pretend doctor for example,  enhances their self-expression, imagination and creative skills.

One thing I found really interesting is that even though playtime increases considerably during weekends, our kids are still not making the most out of their time and are still spending it on the same routine they have gotten used to during weekends.

I guess this seems to be a trend that’s taking this region by storm. But, I am a firm believer that our kids are what we raise them to be. It can be a challenge, especially if you lead a busy work life, but no one said parenting is a walk in the part, nor should anything come in the way of our children’s well being.

In order to change these habits and encourage a well-rounded and balanced upbringing for our children, we have to make more of an effort to encourage them to take part in more physical play. Not only that, but also to make the time to play with them and take part in their activities. It won’t matter where you are or what activity you choose to play, as long as you’re doing it, then you’re making progress.

Here are some tips that could help you change your little explorer’s habits:

  • Just turn off the TV, hide that iPad or just simply stop charging it. Get on the floor and pull out the crayons. Color together and draw funny shapes. Make a fool of yourself, your little one will laugh with you and find it endearing.
  • If you have to get some chores done, let your kid help you out. I bought Yehia a little baby mop and every time I clean the apartment, I let him help and play with his little mop. He feels a sense of accomplishment after he’s done with his so-called ‘cleaning’.
  • When your child starts to get a little antsy and asks for his favorite cartoon, or his/her PSP, resist the urge to take the easy route. they will then realize that he/she has more time to do things and will think of ways on to better spend their time. This will even encourage his intuitive thinking. Take a step back and let them get creative and choose an alternative to how they can spend their time.

To help you compute your own child’s Play Index and get some understanding on their play behavior, Fun City launched the  Fun City Play Index Calculator. Here are a few screen shots to help you get a feel of what it’s like:

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At the Fun City Play Index Event, we were invited to step outside to engage in some ‘play-time’. When I walked out, I found a little basketball hoop, a ball and some awesome race-cars.  Every Tom, Dick and Harry and myself engaged in some play time and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. This made me think of my Yehia and how I know that if I can help him spend his time better, he will be a happier, healthier little man.  We all say that old is gold, so why not give our children the chance to change their ways and enjoy their childhood?

If you want to read more on the results findings and how the study was conducted, click here.

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