The Importance of Play

by Together Counts Partner | October 31, 2011 at 3:12 pm | comments

Autumn brings so many welcome changes — it is the season of nature’s beautiful color show, aromas and tastes of pumpkin and apple are abundant, cooler air sets in and the promise of new learning and fresh starts are brought by the school year. With this fresh, new season upon us and the humidity and rain of the summer behind us, autumn is a fantastic time to get outside and enjoy the cooler weather. And what better way to enjoy this beautiful time of year than to embrace activities you love and simply play.

In the hustle and bustle of the school year and everyday live, it is common that we get stuck in what needs to get done for school, work and family responsibilities, and often leave “play” off that long, daunting “to do” list. But experts agree that play is incredibly important for our well-being. The Association for Childhood Education International states that play is “dynamic, active, and constructive behavior [that] is an integral part of all children’s healthy growth, development and learning across all ages, domains and cultures.”

Other benefits of physical activity include a reduced risk for many diseases, strengthened bones and muscles, a longer lifespan and increased mental health and mood according to the CDC. In fact, when activities are exploratory and based on pure enjoyment, there are even more advantages. Play enhances empathy, flexibility, self-awareness and self-regulation. Playing has the potential to minimize anxiety, depression, aggression and sleep problems.

With today’s busy, over-programmed schedules for both parents and children, it can be difficult finding time to add anything extra to your schedule. But our well-being and our children’s development depends on enjoying time to be active and play. See the list below for ideas for play that families can enjoy together. This season, try some games and activities with your family and fall into play!

Five Fun Family Play Activities for Fall

  • Nature walk treasure hunt (complete with a map and list of nature items to find)
  • Tag or other interactive games (i.e. capture the flag, red rover)
  • Neighborhood baseball game (or another team sport–football, soccer, etc.)
  • Apple or pumpkin picking
  • Raking leaves (and of course jumping in the piles afterward!)

Rain keeping you from enjoying the outdoors? No need to worry, there are still plenty of ways to play inside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Hide-and-seek around the house
  • Construct a fort using blankets, pillows and chairs from around the house
  • Race toy cars or stuffed animals from one end of the room to the other
  • Dance competition or charades with family member contestants and/or friends from the neighborhood

What are your family’s favorite games and activities for the Fall?

Kristen Snow wrote this post for Together Counts on behalf of A Chance to Heal (ACTH), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of eating disorders. Prior to ACTH, Kristen worked for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, fostering her commitment to enhance the lives of youth. She currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband and three-year-old son.