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Keeping Play Strong

If you were to type “the benefits of play for children,” into Google, the search engine mammoth would spit back approximately 446,000,000 responses.

While we all know that Google isn’t foolproof, and that many of those responses would be a dud, that’s still quite an impressive number of resources touting the importance of children being able to play – to truly be kids.

The importance of children exploring, creating their own adventures, and romping around with others isn’t lost on those of us here at the J.

Through dozens of children programs, quarterly children’s classes and a successful Camp at the J program, we’re doing our part to help kids get out and make the most of their playtime.

“When families come to take a tour of camp, I always like to show them the dirtiest areas so they understand their kids are going to come home smelly and dirty which means they had a great day at camp,” said Nikki Downey, Director of Camp at the J.

But playing for children is so much more than it appears on the surface. Let’s explore some of the known benefits of playtime for children.

  • Imagination-Building: Whether they’re vanquishing dragons or traveling to new frontiers, playtime encourages children to visualize and create on their own.
  • Leadership Skills This benefit is more encompassing than it appears at first. Leadership skills include empathy-building, understanding other perspectives, sharing and conflict resolution.
  • Problem-Solving Abstract-thinking is encouraged through play, so children are being challenged to find solutions for problems they’re faced with. This means going beyond the limits they initially set for themselves, and thinking of new ways to overcome obstacles.
  • Improved Behavior With regular activity, children’s in-class behavior is often affected. Concentration and attention are improved when activity is part of their daily routine, so their time in the classroom is more meaningful.
  • Language Skills By playing with others and learning cooperation, children improve communication skills, vocabulary and are able to become adept storytellers.

Our PJ Library program also understands that play is essential to reading and educational pursuits. That’s why on Feb. 21, they will be visiting Cincinnati’s Run Jump-N-Play indoor playground.

The event is currently full, and those who want to join now have to join a waitlist. This bodes well for children, though. It’s a signal that parents understand that play helps children keep their focus.

“When I see children playing, I see them using all their senses and discovering the importance of exploring, creating, and working together,” said Christina Zaffiro, Youth & Family Program Manager. “I see them learning from something as small playing with Play-Doh to as big a playing a team sport.  When you play, every experience teaches something new, and in its own way, meaningful.”


While schools cut recess time or cancel it completely, the effects of a lack of playtime are sure to show up at home and on report cards. Many districts have cited pressure to add more teaching time to their day as a reason to cut recess, according to NPR.

Despite the statistics, play is still strong at the J. Thanks to our programming, classes and activities, your children can learn to play and be themselves.

Looking for ways to keep play strong in your community and your child’s world? The National Association for the Education of Young Children has some advice:

  • Talk to local schools and find out their playtime, and verify if kids get recess.
  • Visit and learn more about the needs for supervision of children.
  • Find teachers and families in your community that view play as a priority. Organize ways to be recess advocates, including doing research and creating letters and posters.
  • Use the materials you’ve created and talk with principals and school superintendent and legislators. Share your knowledge and listen to their perspectives.
Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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