The Power of Play: How Active Play Can Enhance Self-Control

Three boys looking at ZTAG kit

We all know that kids need to play. It’s how they learn about the world around them and develop important physical, social, and cognitive skills. But did you know that active play can also positively impact self-control? That’s right—the more active play kids get, the better they’ll control their impulses, regulate their emotions, and make good decisions. Here’s a closer look at how active play can help kids develop self-control.

Active Play Helps Kids Develop Physical Self-Control

One of the most obvious ways active play can help kids develop self-control is by teaching them physical control. When kids engage in active play, they constantly move their bodies and use their muscles to run, jump, climb, and more. This helps them develop the physical strength and coordination they need to control their bodies. In addition, active play helps kids develop proprioception—the ability to sense where their bodies are in space. This is an important foundation for self-control because it helps kids be aware of their own movements and understand how those movements will impact the world around them. All of these things come together to give kids the physical self-control they need to stay safe and make good decisions.

Active Play Teaches Kids How to Manage Their Emotions

In addition to teaching physical self-control, active play also helps kids manage their emotions. When children are engaged in active play, they often experience a wide range of emotions—joy, excitement, frustration, anger, fear, etc. Learning how to handle all of these emotions is an important part of developing self-control. Through trial and error, kids learn how to regulate their emotions and respond in appropriate ways to different situations. For example, they learn that it’s okay to feel angry but that it’s not okay to hit someone when they’re angry. They learn to take deep breaths when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. And they learn how to celebrate with friends when something good happens. All of these things are essential for developing self-control.

Active Play Encourages Good Decision Making

Finally, active play encourages good decision-making. When children are engaged in active play, they’re constantly making split-second decisions about what to do next. Do they want to go down the slide or climb the ladder? Do they want to swing or spin? With each decision comes an opportunity to practice self-control. For example, if a child is feeling dizzy from spinning too much but wants to keep going, she has to make a decision about whether or not it’s worth it to keep going or if she should stop and take a break—a decision that requires both physical and emotional self-control. With each decision comes an opportunity for practice and learning—opportunities that can help children develop into adults with strong self-control skills.

Self-control is an important skill for everyone—kids included!

Luckily, there’s one activity that can help kids develop this essential skill active play! Active play helps kids develop physical self-control by teaching them coordination and movement skills; it helps them manage their emotions by giving them practice regulating their feelings; and it encourages good decision-making by providing opportunities for practice making choices. So get out there and start playing! Your child’s self-control will thank you for it!

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