3 Reasons Your Teen Still Needs To Play

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We all know the proverb, so why are we allowing our kids less and less opportunities for play?

By the time our kids hit their teens, “play” is a word that seems to have all but disappeared from their vocabulary – saved for the occasional wistful trip down memory lane, recalling trips to soft play centres and farm parks.

But whilst our teens might not like to call it “play” anymore, the act of playing is still vitally important to their development. The human brain is still developing up to the age of 25 and regular play still has a major role in their social and intellectual development.

Whilst as parents we often complain about the amount of time our teens spend on video games or seemingly aimlessly hanging out with their friends, when they could be using their time more productively, it seems that there are reasons to believe that we may be missing the point. This unstructured, undirected time is actually vital for their future development.

Play is important for social and emotional development

How often have you heard adults lamenting the lack of initiative, adaptability and flexibility in today’s teens?

These are traits that need to be learned and cultivated – through play. Play allows teens to express their own feelings and opinions, whilst also learning to listen to others and take on their perspectives. They learn to lead, negotiate and reach compromises.

It also provides the opportunity to laugh and have fun. We all know that laughter makes us feel good. It helps us to stay positive through difficult situations and builds our resilience.

Play is important for physical development

It is important for teens to take part in physical activity because it builds their strength, muscle control, coordination and reflexes.

But there is more to it than this. It also enables them to learn to take risks, to challenge themselves and to test their limits. It encourages them to take risks in other situations.

Play is important for intellectual development

Play improves memory and creative thinking in teens. When they are building or constructing, for example, they will be measuring, testing theories and problem solving. When they are acting, they are developing their vocabulary and creative expression.

Far from wasting time, when teens are playing, they are developing some of the most important life skills.

Play has a positive impact on teens in terms of their academic motivation and aspirations. In today’s society, they are often given so little freedom to choose what they want to do that they often don’t even know where their natural talents and abilities lie. However, if we let our teens relax and do what comes naturally, we will no longer need to nag or micro-manage them. They will reach their own unique potential by doing what they love.

Some of the most successful companies allow their employees to play at work because they recognise the link between a fun working environment and increased productivity. Take Google, for example. Apparently, they encourage their employees to design their own desks using materials which resemble oversize Tinker Toys and a few desks even have treadmills attached, so that they can walk while working. More play at work means more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, and a decrease in absences and staff turnover.

As George Bernard Shaw wisely said: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.