The Value of Play

May 16, 2020 - 5 minutes read

The post below is written by our School Counsellor, Deidre Keating. Shared with families on April 26, 2020.

Counsellor’s Corner

Hello Parents and Families!

In today’s edition of Counsellor’s Corner, we are going to talk about a tool that may help us navigate times of stress. There are many things that can help buffer the feelings of stress. Among my favourites are keeping things simple, connecting with loved ones, and being in nature. Another tool that is so valuable right now is PLAY.

Play – no matter what form it takes – is very healthy for our bodies and brains. Play allows our bodies to discharge physical and emotional stress, and relish in all the good things, including endorphins and serotonin. Play also activates the right side of the brain, which is the part of the brain that develops first, and connects us to a simple way of being and feeling. The right brain has to do with non-verbal communication, empathy, intuition, creativity…all those delicious things that make life so juicy and rich.

Yes, the left side of the brain is very important too. The logical and advanced left brain is so useful in our day to day interactions, our work lives, our academics, and our understanding of the world around us. This part of our brain helps us orient to new and complex situations, and to problem solve and engage in critical thinking. It thrives on structure, order, and organization.

In this time of uncertainty, however, our left brains must be slightly confused. Some things in our world cannot be understood by logical reasoning alone right now. We are actively experiencing dismantled structures, topsy-turvy order, and changes on a personal and collective level. Our daily personal, work, and family lives have been disrupted. Our left brains strive to make sense of it all, and are probably struggling to find any sort of order right now. Our right brains, however, know how to move through this with curiosity, imagination, empathy, and calm. Right now, the call is for simplicity in all we do. Simple structures and simple activities keep ourselves anchored in a world that is so rapidly changing.

If your child is finding it challenging to be focused on schoolwork right now, a kind solution to this is to encourage them to play! This is very healing and healthy for them, and you! Through play, children can work through their heavy emotions, and make things make sense for themselves. They can discharge their pent-up bodily stress, and engage in worlds of certainty of their own choosing, which may help them feel a sense of autonomy and agency in this time in which their worlds are unsettled. Play also helps things feel more normalized, which may help your child feel more safe and grounded in their day to day experience. And play will also inform their ability to attune to their academic tasks, to be more focused and more able to engage in left brain thinking, once their bodies and minds are calm and regulated enough to do so. Children learn through play. They learn how to problem solve and to be flexible in their thinking. They also learn the value of imagination, which may help them rise above their current reality. Another thing that play allows them to do is to integrate – to take in what is happening in a way that is healthy, safe, and developmentally appropriate for them.

I wish you all happy playing times! Remember that the same benefits for kids – stress relief, enhanced curiosity, learning, increased endorphins – also apply for adults. So, go play!