Play is Important – Here’s Why

We all hear that play is important for children.  I know it’s important.  It’s their work; how they learn to make friends, negotiate, solve problems with objects, and solve problems with other children.  Play is having fun, and it’s also very hard work.  Learning how to pump a swing and ride a bike is a mountain of a challenge.  So is learning how to ask for a turn, and to stick up for yourself.

I stood back and watched children playing in our Dinosaur Den at school.  The conversation was lively, and they wanted to make the dinosaurs talk with each other.

And they did!

Then a child asked me to take a picture of all the dinosaurs.  They had worked so carefully to get the dinosaurs all set up, before a dinosaur dinner.  Do you see the dinner, the multitude of rocks. carefully lined up?  I couldn’t get all the dinosaurs in one photo, so I had to make a video.  This was very important to the children.

And then it was time for the dinosaurs to have dinner.

Do you know how long it took children to line up all those rocks?  Can you see how carefully children are feeding and taking care of the dinosaurs?  Do you see how they are working together?  They’re developing life skills.

Recently there was another great day of play.  Children were delighting in the fallen leaves on the playground.  Some children were running and chasing with leaves, others were intent on building and counting.  Two children made up a game of trading and sorting leaves.  Then, the play became a group experience.  Children gathered together to play Ring Around the Rosie.  No teacher guided them.  No teacher intervened.  We watched the play.

What happened here?  Joy, team building, new friendships that just emerged, sharing, muscle development… and so much more.

Play = Life Skills.

Children who play can better attend at school.

Children who play have greater academic success.

Children who play make friends.

Children who play develop kindness, heart.

Children who play are problem solvers.

(This is just the tip of the iceberg, key parts of a long list.)

Therefore, children who play grow into adults who have the skills to become good citizens as well as good people.  Isn’t that what’s most important?

But, there’s more!

Active outdoor play is also a brain stimulant, and helps children to process information.  A classic example just happened.  When we came back inside for Morning Meeting, the Helper of the Day (who had been very active on the playground equipment) was able to recognize and recite calendar numbers, including doing a tricky number challenge, with far more skill.

So, what is new outside that is adding to this?

We have just added two Whizzy Dizzies to the playground, and children are spinning and whizzing— and getting very dizzy.  This play is incredibly important to both the body and the brain.  In technical terms, spinning enhances vestibular stimulation so the brain can learn and process information.  It helps children sense where their body is in space, and it gives them better coordination.  The video below shows how much fun the children are having.

There are other important movements as well.  Jumping, bending down to touch the ground, and turning around are excellent for motor AND brain development.  I even made up a movement song that incorporates these movements.  It’s not a surprise that it’s our most popular classroom song.

Here is something interesting: Finland ranks #1 in reading (e.g. education) in the world.  Sadly, America ranks #26.  At school in Finland, children have 10 minutes of lively activity within every hour at school.  At home when children are using an iPad to play games and learn, active outdoor play beforehand makes a difference.

Mister Rogers said it best of all: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.  But for children, play is serious learning.  Play is really the work of childhood.”  

Cheers to play!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Imagination, Inspiration, Play, preschool, Uncategorized, young children and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

89 Responses to Play is Important – Here’s Why

  1. Darlene says:

    Play is important at all stages of life, to be honest. What was that old saying, “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy”. A workplace that includes some play has more productive workers. The children look so happy in these videos. xo

  2. K.L. Hale says:

    Bravo 🙌🏻!!! Kids really know how to teach us while we attempt to teach them. I remember a time in my career when recess was going to “cut” due to the rigid standards needing to be “taught”. It was time for the research to come out because the simplicity of play that naturally improved cognition, cooperation, fine/gross motor, and all of the things you’ve mentioned, wasn’t enough in addressing what was “written” in standards. It’s sad when humans, at any age, no longer know how to play. Either alone or in cooperation with others. The videos warmed my heart Ms. Jennie. And the dinosaurs have a beautiful life there! 💛

  3. beetleypete says:

    Good to see the kids connecting and having fun. I remember ‘playtime’ in my junior school. We had no equipment, just a tarmac yard surrounded by high walls, but we played made-up games, rushed around, formed friendships that often lasted for decades, and learned new skills. Those twice-daily ‘playtimes’ also made us more alert when we went back inside for lessons.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      You are exactly right, Pete. Even without playground equipment, kids naturally play. The friendships, cognitive stimulation, and physical activity are just what kids need today. Skip the technology when they’re young.

  4. beth says:

    i’m all about play-based learning, jennie and bravo!

  5. I greatly enjoyed this post! Just think of all the committee meetings it would take adults to plan that dinosaur dinner. 😉

  6. quiall says:

    I agree with Mr. Rogers! Play is serious learning and it is learning for life.

  7. Jim Borden says:

    wonderful post, Jennie. I couldn’t agree more. Play is so important and should be a part of every child’s day. Love the videos – the children are having so much fun.

    side note – it seems like you never use the word “kids” – is that a conscious decision?

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Jim. I’m glad you enjoyed this and feel the same way. You are the first person who has ever asked me about never using the word ‘kids’. Yes, it is purposeful! I feel like ‘kids’ is a slang word, and is somewhat demeaning to children. I want to give them the respect they deserve, and calling them ‘children’ just feels right. I know, it’s probably silly, but I’m glad I choose to do it.

  8. bosssybabe says:

    This is so true. My daughter goes to a Montessori school and their motto is “Play is the work of the children!” and you describe it so perfectly here!

    I love watching her pics that teachers send of her focused and concentrating! 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Yes! She goes to a good school! I’ve always liked Montessori philosophy and teaching. Those focused and concentrating photos are some of my favorites at school, too. Many thanks, Jen!

  9. Thank you so much for this! As a homeschool mom and brought up in American schools I often forget about this type of play! I am going to see about implementing the spinning and ring around the Rosie’s with my kids during the day!

  10. I’ve never stopped playing

  11. Super post, Jennie. Thank you.

  12. Play is child’s work. Lovely. Thank you for this post.

  13. Hear, hear! And play is for all ages, though it might be called art, or inventing or some such thing for older people.

  14. petespringerauthor says:

    I love listening to their ideas and how they negotiate and work things out with one another. Playing typically involves essential life skills.

    • Jennie says:

      You hit the nail on the head, Pete. Standing back and listening to how they figure things out is really watching life skills. That’s the same thing children will face as adults in the business world and in their family world. We’re lucky to be a part of this.

  15. arbind kumar says:

    Play is important for children . Those children, who play regularly , do their home work regularly . Attend classes regularly . Play empowers children to solve their problems independently . Do better in life . Widen their outlook . Understanding , tolerance , human elements like compassion and emotion — all are apparent in those children who are given access to play in their childhood . Your blog is eye opener for those guardians who only give emphasis on studies as such . Thanks !

  16. Thanks for this, Jennie. An interesting post.

  17. sana bst says:

    Agree🌸 playing is also helpful in sharpen memory.

  18. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you so much for this extremely important post!

  19. Such a joy to come back here Jennie and read about Children at play… So needed that interconnection and tactile play to learn from each other…
    Great to see them all…. And great to read you again Jennie.. ❤

  20. Those short videos are so delightful! I want a ride on the whizzy thingy! 😂

  21. Elizabeth says:

    One of the fun things for older children turns out to geocaching(which my grandkids told me about.) I guess you wander around in the woods looking for some hidden box and taking some trinket and leaving another. While it is nominally structured from what I hear from the kids at lot of it involves goofing off in the woods. Charlie and I still play, though we have a puppy to give us an “excuse.”

  22. theburningheart says:

    Your post made me reflect on old memories from my childhood, and can see clearly how the games we used to play as children, specially the ones we invented had a great deal to do, with who we become, as adults.

    Thank you Jennie.😊👍

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you. Reflecting on memories from childhood really brings to light how important play is. I love your memories! Yes, it’s who we are as adults.

  23. theburningheart says:

    Absolutely. 💖

  24. Norah says:

    I enjoyed your videos of children at play, Jennie. I love those practices from Finland. I wish they were implemented everywhere. What a difference it would make.

  25. Wow! You have a wonderful playground there. Yesterday i had read about a British Museum which gave one of their dinosaur sculptures a Christmas jumper. 😉 xx Michael

  26. LloydRosen says:

    How amazing!! I love that perspective!! I watch my little girl learning so so much from playing every day! That’s how it works:)

  27. Tarot of the Missing says:

    Play is necessary for the development of problem solving , social skills, creativity, etc. So true.

  28. Lamittan Minsah says:

    This is really insightful. It made me think i wanted to be a child again to pick up the pieces of me i scattered without playing, hahaha. I recommend playing for children too. This way, life gets easier for them. Please check and subscribe to my site too.

  29. Hi Jennie, I agree that children playing is very important. People don’t seem to realise this now and thing an ipad or other digital device does the entertaining of their children trick. It does not. Children need to play in sand and mud, gather leaves, lie on the grass and watch the clouds. It’s all so important.

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  31. Dan Antion says:

    Thanks for this, Jennie!

  32. says:

    Absolutely Play= Life Skill. Play is really important in life. It give us confidence

  33. Pingback: Play is Important – Here’s Why – Articlistic

  34. ananyakashyap123 says:

    Thank you Jennie! I enjoyed this post

  35. ananyakashyap123 says:

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