Week 2 of CHoR Challenge: When children play, they’re having fun.
They’re also building confidence, resilience, decision-making skills and social skills. And that’s good news for parents working at home.
Quarantine activities for kids: Playing provides mental, creative and education benefits
Many families staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are managing work, household chores and trying to home-school kids. It’s not easy. The good news is that letting children play—free, unstructured play – has educational value, too. In fact, play is essential to children’s healthy development, and even to their academic success.
The many developmental benefits of play
Play is a toy chest full of benefits for children’s developing brains and capabilities. Beginning as infants, it’s how they learn about their world. Play equips them to conquer fears, gain confidence and practice skills they’ll need as adults—including how to meet life’s challenges with resiliency and optimism.
Emphasis on “free” play
Research shows that when adults control children’s play, its benefits can be lost, particularly the development of creativity, leadership and social skills. When kids decide together how they will play, they learn to collaborate, share, negotiate and resolve conflict. And when individual children are allowed free play without too much adult direction (but with appropriate supervision for safety), they practice decision-making and may even discover new fascinations and hobbies.
This week’s CHoR Challenges are all about play
Take a break from structured learning to try this mix of ways to play that foster children’s resilience, creativity and social skills.
Challenge: Play—and learn—with our new activity and coloring book!
For a little fun and tips for staying safe during the pandemic—check out our new activity and coloring book for kids, available for download. Developed in collaboration with our experts in children's mental health, infectious diseases and child life, it’s a creative, interactive way to gently answer your children's questions about COVID-19 and ease their worries.
Challenge: Create your own backyard sporting event
Local, national and even international sporting events have been postponed, but the champion in your child never stops. How many jumping jacks can they do in a row? How many push-ups? No better way to find out—and to stay fit—than with a backyard track and field event. Can your child invent their own new sports? What would they prefer to give as awards over medals?
In the spirit of international competition, have your child choose a country to represent—or perhaps make up their own country, complete with flag and national costume—for a parade of nations. Parents, take a break to join their sporting events and make exercise at home a family tradition.
Challenge: Practice social skills over a board game
Despite being away from playmates and friends, kids can still practice “social thinking.” Social thinking is the ability to consider other people’s thoughts, emotions and intentions as well as your own; an essential skill when interpreting and responding to a social situation.
Simple card and board games develop social thinking because they require waiting turns, considering what others might do and reacting to unplanned events. Deepen the developmental benefit by playing these games as a family. Parents and children can take turns in the role of “coach” or “narrator.” The coach’s job is to model patience, resist the temptation to look at others’ cards and be an all-around good sport. The narrator’s job is to point out and praise others for exhibiting good behavior. Play only as long as the game is positive and fun. To track your child’s social skills development, visit our milestones page.
The science of play
“Occupational therapists help our clients build skills through engagement in inherently meaningful activities, or occupations. Since we know that children learn best from the occupation of play, it’s easy to understand why ‘just playing’ can be the best way to help your child build important skills. The philosophy I try to live by as an OT (and a parent to three young children) is ‘watch, wait and wonder.’ Watch, wait and wonder is the idea of giving a child the space to explore and make choices in their play without the pressure of picking or doing the ‘right’ thing. As a parent, try following your child’s lead and let them call the shots. Rather than planning and executing a perfect playtime, watch, wait and wonder may mean that your playtime is totally based on the whims of the day. The best thing about play is that there is no right or wrong way of doing it. Children have a knack for reminding us that playtime is only confined by the limits of your imagination.” – Lauren Andelin, OTD, CHoR occupational therapist
As your family finds new ways play this week, we invite you to post images, videos and descriptions of your kids participating in challenges to social media with the hashtag #CHoRChallenge.