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How play affects mental health in young children

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By Denise Morganthall


With mental health issues becoming more common among young children today, we need to explore all avenues to reverse this trend. The answer might lie in something quite simple – play.


Play is essential in children’s development and overall health. Play helps children develop cognitively and socially. Unfortunately, children do not get to play as we did years ago. Today, as a society, we work longer and harder, making it more difficult to find the time and energy to play with our children. But we need to make time. Play promotes good mental health, which allows children to develop what it takes to thrive in an ever-changing world and grow into well- adjusted healthy adults.


There are many types of play: creative, make believe, quiet, cooperative and active. Active play is essential in children’s overall health, as it can release extra energy, tension and anxiety. It will also tire children out so they sleep better, which is also essential to their overall health. Active play can involve riding a bike, swimming or swinging at the playground.


Cooperative play is playing with other children, which teaches sharing, taking turns and obeying rules. Board games are an example of cooperative play, and aside from being fun, they teach children skills and knowledge they will need throughout life.


Mental health professionals have noted that play is as important to human happiness and well-being as work and love. Parents obviously want what is best for their children, so if you want your child to be healthy and whole, perhaps you should start with play.

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