Play is essential to a child's development. It encourages flexible thinking and creativity, problem solving skills, and learning social skills, all of which are important in later life. The value of play is often underestimated, which can be seen from the decline in the average time children spend playing. According to this article from Pathways.org, and Ronald Bishop and S. Hofferth and J.F. Sandberg, "Between 1981 and 1997, the amount of time children spent playing dropped by 25%. During this same time period, children ages 3-11 lost 12 hours a week of free time and spent more time at school, completing homework, and shopping with parents." However, play is still very much an important part of development that can't be replaced by video games or mobile apps.
The benefits of play for development are plentiful. According to Kenneth R. Ginsburg, play is an important experience for learning to interact with the world around us. He goes on to explain, "Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers." Play allows children to learn how to solve conflict, share, self-advocate, be more confident, and work with others for a common goal, which are all skills needed as adults. Besides for the cognitive and skill building benefits of play, children and young adults benefit from the physical activity that often accompanies play. Large motor skills and muscle development are both a benefit of play as well. Doing the monkey bars, climbing steps on the playground, playing tag, or riding a bike are all great ways for kids to exercise while also still enjoying the joy that comes from play.
Hand-in-Hand has indoor and outdoor play areas, but this coming spring and summer, we are going to complete our Playground Improvement Project, which will significantly improve our outdoor area. The project will add safety measures for our participants, as well as adding equipment that will help with the development of gross motor skills. Most of the equipment will also engage children with sensory issues. Jane Case-Smith and Teresa Bryan stated in their paper The Effects of Occupational Therapy With Sensory Integration Emphasis on Preschool Age Children With Autism, "Sensory integration is fundamental to the child’s ability to engage in play and sustain interaction. A child can purposefully interact with the environment only when appropriate levels of arousal, orientation, and attention are attained." This is why it will be important that our newly improved play area be engaging for our participants that have trouble processing sensory information.
The goal of this project is to provide a safe and engaging environment for our participants to learn new skills and grow. Parents and guardians already trust Hand-in-Hand as a safe place for their children to attend programs, and this new addition to our facility will provide an even better place for participants to development muscles and skills of all kinds.
If you are interested in helping us reach our $25,000 goal for this project, you can visit our "support" page and click on "donate securely online". Updates on the project will be posted on our website and social media. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @handinhandqc