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“According to neuroscientists, emotional development is as sophisticated as cognitive development, but it needs a playground to grow and evolve in.”

The idea that play for kids is an instinctual need isn’t often discussed. Play is expected when children are young but playtime is often limited in an effort of balancing it with structured activities, homework, chores, etc. Unrestricted play is an essential part of social and emotional development. Now that kids are heading back to school, it is even more important to leave time in their schedules for play.

Is playtime necessary for tweens or teens? Yes, screens down and get those imaginations fired up! While the activities they choose will mature as they do, unguarded time spent exploring their inner self is arguably the most powerful avenue toward strength, flexibility, empathy, and growth as a human being.

Zier Institute embraces play-based therapy as a component of our occupational therapy because it helps children unlock unknown abilities and fosters an environment of discovery and delight. Observing the actions of a child or teen when they are lost in play teaches us more than conversation ever could. In those moments, their walls are down and we can treat behavior, emotional disorders and help them overcome physical challenges organically; most commonly without their knowing change or influencing behavior is underway.

Play creates a sanctuary for emotions, a safe place where kids are accepted exactly as they are. We encourage every parent and educator to take the time to read this incredible article and challenge yourself to apply its teachings to your child’s daily list of to-dos.