Learn to Play and Play to Learn

As adults, we are often quick to separate work and play, but could they actually overlap more than we think?  Science suggests that play can be therapeutic for children and youth in a variety of ways.  According to Search Institute’s extensive research, it’s easy to observe the benefits of using play as a teaching method.  The following are a few of Search Institute’s scientific findings about play, as well as a few of the ways that Southeast Psych clinicians utilize play in therapy:

Games help kids feel supported by peers and adults.  In Dr. Gaskill’s groups, he hopes that each member will leave with new friendships.  To accomplish this goal, he uses a variety of games and shared interests that help kids feel encouraged and validated by those around them.

Kids learn to try out leadership roles, problem-solve, and use critical thinking skills.  If kids are able to build skills like these during play, their experiences can be extended to real-life scenarios, as well.  This will help ensure that they are prepared for the challenges of adolescence, adulthood, and beyond.

Group games help kids see their potential.  When youth are able to work together to solve problems, this builds confidence and resilience for future endeavors.

Games highlight sparks, strengths, and talents that may not be easily seen in the classroom.  Kids who have sparks, or interests that inspire them, tend to make more positive life choices.  Dr. Bolton, Dr. Knuth, and Heather Wright, M.S. aim to help kids develop sparks through their Creative Kids Camp, which incorporates art, gardening, and cooking.

Games help students better understand the decision-making process.  In order for kids to succeed at games, they have to understand the rules and develop effective strategies.  If kids learn to carry out these tasks during a game, they will often feel more comfortable making decisions in the real world.

Working together builds social skills and respect for others.  Group games are a central focus of many of Southeast Psych’s groups and camps.  For example, Dr. Knuth and Dr. O’Connor use video games to help kids improve cooperation, stress management, and friendship skills, and Mary B. Moore uses LEGOS to help kids develop social skills.

Games promote a positive self-concept.  According to Dr. Morganstein, a positive self-concept is important for our kids to grow up happy and healthy.

Overall, play is very important, and we shouldn’t see work and play as mutually exclusive items!  Find ways to make learning fun and to make fun involve educational or skill-building components.

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