The Importance of Play in School

September 21, 2021 / Perspectives in Education/Lower School/All News

Play break at school might just be the most exciting part of a child’s day. Not only is it a time for imaginations to run wild, friendships to form, and laughter to abound, but it is also a crucial time for social, physical, and cognitive development in growing children. 

Head of Lower School Sarah Love is a huge proponent of multiple movement breaks for her students. She believes that they respond very well to moving and playing multiple times throughout the day. “It re-energizes them. They are able to come back in and refocus,” she said. 

The Benefits of Playtime

Social and Emotional Development

Playing with others helps children to learn social norms, like sharing and taking turns, while also learning to express certain emotions, like feeling included. Rae Pica, an education consultant specializing in children’s physical activity, describes it this way: “Movement education requires that a child be aware of others in [activities] in which he shares space…; he has to take turns and to cooperate. He thus develops social awareness and achieves satisfaction through peer relationships and group play.” Learning such norms early on in life helps children find a balance between socialization with others and learning to express and control their emotions.

Physical Development 

Beginning playtime with the youngest children on campus helps strengthen their fine motor skills for future development. In the younger students, building with blocks and cutting out shapes develop and strengthen dexterity. In older students, running and swinging on playground equipment aids in muscle development and encourages bone growth. Even the smallest of play can help set a child up for future physical success and establish healthy habits that children can create a lifestyle around.

Cognitive Development

While physical development is important, cognitive development is equally vital. Some examples of cognitive skills enhanced through play are the ability to problem solve, retain information, and use logical reasoning. Parent Today magazine supports that, saying “Children who play daily build strong cognitive skills and are aided with better attention spans, problem-solving abilities, and self-regulation skills.” Games such as jigsaw puzzles and matching cards that encourage problem-solving and memorization can be the most beneficial to cognitive development in a young child. 

Jackson Academy recognizes the importance of each form and stage of development. Offering multiple play breaks, P.E. classes, and organized play are just a few of the ways that JA is contributing to the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of its students, all while surrounding them with an encouraging and nurturing environment.