Play — The Natural Stress Reliever

Play — The Natural Stress Reliever

Childhood stress — it’s something no parent wants for their child, yet it’s all too common in today’s society. Our kids are dealing with school expectations, a lingering pandemic, social challenges and relationships with friends, afterschool sports, a long list of activities, and for our older children, social media. If they’re picking up on family stressors, they could also be concerned about finances, parent relationship struggles, family illnesses, and more.

How can we help our children slow down and enjoy their childhood while teaching them stress management skills that can be carried throughout their lives? Play is a great place to start.

How Can Play Reduce Stress?

Play reduces stress for a number of reasons, including:

  • Giving children a sense of control — When kids play, they choose what they want to do and how they want to do it. There are no outside pressures and no one checking to ensure their work is successful.
  • Allowing kids to play out social scenarios in a safe space — Play actually increases social skills by allowing kids to walk through challenging scenarios in a make-believe fashion. If they are stressed about illness, they may play “doctor” with their dolls or stuffed animals. If they are struggling with classroom behavior at school, you may see them playing “teacher” with their favorite character toys. 
  • Providing connection time with adults in a positive fashion — When adults are stressed, kids often are, too. When we take the time to simply play with our children without outside distractions, we provide positive connection time that growing minds desperately need.

  • Stress Relieving Play Ideas

    Play of all kinds can reduce stress, especially when it takes place without high levels of external stimulation. Quiet, child-led activities are the best stress-relievers. Try these stress-busting activities for young children from Penn State today:

      1. Sensory play — Sensory play has a calming effect on kids. Give little ones play dough to squash, squeeze, and pound. Set up a water table or sand bin to explore. Offer stress balls, fidget toys, or other squishy toys to relax with, too.
      2. Pretend play — Dress up and other imaginary play can help with acting out challenging scenarios and relaxing young minds after difficult days.
      3. Hobby time — Let your children explore their main interests. If they love art, provide access to materials or fun kits to encourage them to participate. If they love sports, offer fun balls to toss around outside.
      4. Make music — Encourage your child to express themselves through music by providing instruments or even something that allows them to listen to their favorite songs on their own.
      5. Get moving — Exercise helps to relieve stress. Offer sports equipment or other movement toys like scooters, bikes, and balls. The fresh air they’ll take in will bring stress-relieving benefits at the same time.

    All in all, we have the ability to play a significant role in our childrens’ stress relief. Focus on offering tons of quality playtime and be there to talk when your kids need it most. The benefits that follow will support them today and into adulthood when stressful moments come their way.

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