Importance of Play in Cognitive Development

June 24, 2016


With the intense competition for spots at top-notch New York City schools increasing, it may seem that any of your child’s free time should be spent preparing for school entry exams. But in the rush and pressure of school admissions, it’s important to remember that a young child’s cognitive performance is not only strengthened through studying, but also through play.


It may seem like your child is just playing silly make-believe games or simply running around, but these activities are actually crucial to his or her early development. In 2009, the National Association for the Education of Young Children even named play as a central component in developmentally appropriate educational practices. When children are at play, they are growing stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. Motor skills and attention spans are improved, and children learn about their environment and how to behave within it. As a parent, you are also able to see your child’s environment from their perspective, and communicate with them better through that.


The benefits of play are also seen in group settings. Acting out scenarios with their friends teaches children how to use their imaginations and think creatively, while playing games or sports with teams teaches kids to work well in a group and solve conflicts, compromise, and stand up for themselves. These skills help prepare children for navigating difficult situations throughout adulthood.


Although taking away time from traditional learning and study time may seem unwise, it has been proven that cognitive capacity actually improves when a child is physically active for even a short period of time. Playing soccer for an hour or playing hide-and-seek for a few minutes gives your child’s mind a chance to take the break that it needs to reset before more subject learning. This downtime is not only helpful for mental rest, but also helps to fight feelings of pressure or stress, aiding your child’s academic success in the long run.

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