Summer is finally here, and life is slowly starting to look more normal. The mask mandate is no longer in effect, the state of emergency has been lifted, and things are opening back up. We survived over a year in lock down, practicing social distancing, wearing masks, working from home, and helping our children navigate school, whether they were virtual, in person, or hybrid. Our community collectively experienced acute stress for a long period of time. During Covid, 20.6 million jobs were lost in the United States and there were 599,156 deaths due to Covid-19. Many families are grieving the loss of loved ones or are trying to navigate the long-term effects of Covid-19 on the body. Although our bodies are equipped to handle small amounts of stress, when exposed to large amounts of stress for long periods our bodies are negatively impacted. You may experience this through constant muscle tension leading to headaches and body aches, difficulty breathing, hypertension, or a weakened immune system. The body’s attempt to protect us from stressors can even cause an increase in risk for heart attack. So now that we are emerging from these stressors how can we start to heal our bodies and minds? Some ways to accomplish this include therapy, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and exercise. Another way to relax and let go of stress that is often overlooked is play.
The Benefits of Play
Play is an important aspect of childhood development. Through play children learn to explore, socialize, be creative, and problem-solve. Play helps to build confidence, increases physical activity, and even helps with cognitive growth. Play teaches and provides hands-on experiences that help children make connections to real life, to others, and to the world. Providing both structured and unstructured times of play allows children to learn new skills and experiment with new ideas. Structured play activities have a set goal or something to accomplish. This includes sports activities, board games, and even building lego sets. Unstructured play allows for free play and opens the door for creativity and thinking outside of the box. Non-directed art projects, allowing kids to direct the activities or create their own games, and free-building with blocks or legos are a few examples. Play teaches and provides hands-on experiences that help children make connections to real life, to others, and to the world.
The Benefits of Play for Adults
The benefits of play are not limited to children. There are advantages for adults as well. In fact, some jobs encourage and plan for their employees to play. This may take the form of team building activities or socials. The goal is to increase connection between employees, create a community of workers, and nurture a healthy work environment. Play decreases stress and taking a break from work to play can help increase creativity and productivity. Playing with others improves communication, problem solving, and strengthens relationships. It is easy to imagine how these skills are gained when thinking about participating in team sports or board games. Spending time outside playing, enjoying nature, and engaging with others is a great way to refresh the mind and body, improving health and even happiness. Now is the time to stop and allow ourselves some self-care through play. Play takes many different forms. Give yourself permission to play! Roller skate, host a game night, try go kart racing. Find the one that works best for you and take a few moments each week to refresh yourself, have fun, and heal.
If you would like to explore the benefits of play therapy for your child, we at Milestones would love to connect you with one of our skilled, compassionate therapists. For more information about how we can help or to schedule an appointment, please use our contact form or call (443) 574–4295.
Stress Effects on the Body: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
Why It’s Good for Grown-ups to Go Play: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/why-its-good-for-grown-ups-to-go-play/2017/05/19/99810292-fd1f-11e6-8ebe-6e0dbe4f2bca_story.html
National Association for the Education of young children
Play Therapy Makes a Difference: https://a4pt.site-ym.com/page/PTMakesADifference
Unstructured Vs. Structured Play: https://www.playgroundcentre.com/unstructured-vs-structured-play