All children should be given time to play. Free play and outdoor play, in particular are beneficial to their development.
Play is a universal language among children. Through play, children learn to use all their senses by touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and imitating actions they see from others. Children’s overall development and wellbeing is enhanced by being given time to play. Free play, or unstructured play, is where children take the initiative to create stories around set activities without the guidance from a parent or adult close by.
A study conducted by an Australian National University found that allowing children to use their imagination when playing was highly beneficial to language development. Clinical psychologist Sara Quinn supports this, saying that when parents ask their children questions and allow them to direct the conversation, both share in the same attention for a longer duration.
Outdoor play is as important as imaginative play. Here, your child strengthens their muscles and mobility whether it be through jumping off a rock or learning to navigate across the monkey bars. Watch their confidence grow as they learn to take risks and explore the world around them.
Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist and author of Balanced and Barefoot, strongly believes that taking children outside to play comes with a host of confidence-boosting benefits.
“My son Damian is differently-abled. However, I try to expose him to a variety of childhood activities and experiences he can explore on his own. It is interesting how social interaction with other children builds his confidence and influences the way he engages with others. It also spurs his eagerness to try new things,” says Deirdré Gower, from Warrior on Wheels Foundation.
“We often visit Bugz Playpark where the layout and pathways make it accessible for wheelchairs. The playground design makes it possible for a child like Damian to experience all areas of the park. When in his motorised wheelchair, he has a sense of independence. He is able to act on his curiosity and go exploring the park. Even if he isn’t able to get on and off rides or equipment by himself, he can still feel some sense of control by getting around where and when he wants to without the fear of uneven terrain.”
Read about the benefits of playing in dirt and mud.
Play before technology
All parents should ensure that their children receive the best learning experience with each school activity and at home. Giving them time to play and placing a focus on learning and free play instead of technology, instils confidence, trust and self-assurance.
About Bugz Playpark
Bugz Playpark in the Western Cape offers a range of zones suited for children 2–10 years old. The playpark focuses on fostering hands-on creative development. It boasts a colourful indoor area filled with slides and obstacles. The outdoor area challenges little minds, builds motor skills and burns energy the fun way! “We aim to strengthen and develop core skills crucial to the growth of kids. Educational boards explain the skills your child is developing by fulfilling that set activity,” says Lise Liebenberg, founder of Bugz Playpark.
While free play and outdoor play are important, so too is family play time, find some fun family activities here.