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  • Play is everything to kids. But you know what they would love more? Having you to play with, and according to Ikea's The Play Report 2017, you benefit a lot from any lighthearted, active, satisfying, and fun activity. 

    "This year’s research has strengthened our belief that play is critical for a better everyday life at home. It shows us that part of our job in creating a better everyday life must be to spark even more playfulness into the home," says Maria Thörn, Range Manager for IKEA of Sweden, said in a press release

    “In fact, some of the most beneficial play is when children and adults play together. When caregivers and children play together, they’re actually making emotional connections," says Yesim Kunter, a play expert and futurologist. "They are learning about each other. They are learning about who they are as well as about the other person, and they are exploring together. At the same time, they are learning how to observe things together and how to take risks together," he added.

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    Researchers spent eight months talking to 300-plus two- to 90-year-old individuals in Germany, China, and the U.S. to discover why how play affects lives in different contexts. For example, the study shows that there are five main reasons why kids and adults engage in play. Ikea calls it "play needs": 

    • It's a form of re-balancing life. It helps people to rest, rebalance, and ultimately repair physically and mentally.
    • Play enables people to connect. It enhances bonds and allows people to get closer to loved ones. 
    • It's a form of escape. It momentarily takes a person away from duties, responsibilities, rules, and routine. 
    • Play enables exploration. It's a learning tool and paves ways to develop and improve the world as we see it. 
    • It's a form of expression.It's a platform, allowing parents and kids to express a different version of themselves. 

    Unfortunately, not a lot of parents play with their kids. The study cited several reasons that hinder adults from having fun with their children: no time, too much stress, duties and responsibilities at work or home, and rigid daily routines. Some people also see play as a luxury instead of a necessity, and a lot of adults just feel that play is only for kids.

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    Just because parents are adults (and doing a lot of adulting) doesn't mean they aren't allowed to have fun. Play is a vital tool in parenting and in life. It is important enough to set aside time for it, even short playtime breaks in between or incorporated in the daily routine. The researchers noted five of the most common types of play you can have with your child and how it can do you good to engage:  

    Freestyle play is spontaneous, undirected and unstructured. You just go along with your child's play and be silly together. It nurtures a child's confidence and decision-making skills and allows grownups to see the world through a fresh perspective. 

    Build-it play is constructive. Children and adults play together using objects and toys, such as cardboard, blankets, LEGO bricks, and more, to create build something. It teaches adults and children how to think more creatively about problem-solving together.

    Mirror-me play is imitative. Kids playfully copy adult behavior turning it into a game. It's nice way for kids to learn adult tasks. It helps kids develop social skills and allows adults to de-stress, turning a frustrating chore into a lighthearted, satisfying activity.

    Muddy-boots play is basically outdoor play, and kids and parents engage in physical or sports activities. They let-go, run around, play catch without the physical and social constraints of the indoors. It allows them to use up energy, release endorphins and feel happier.

    Out-of-the-box play is also known as artistic play without an output requirement, like dancing or coloring. Both kids and adults just let their express a more creative, open side of their personality. It promotes a more creative thinking, tapping into one's imagination.

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    Formal play is a more structured play, like board games. It is typically less spontaneous and more structured. It is focused, yet enjoyable. This type of play brings families together and is a fun way to help adults and children to focus, relax and solve problems creatively. 

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    Play, like life, is also evolving. Ikea's third annual report cites that soon, people will be engaging more in personalized play, play at non-conventional places and even while doing home chores, multi-sensory play (think virtual reality and the like), crafting, and a love for the old toys such as board games, classic Game Boy and the like, will emerge. Technology and social media will still play a significant role but not direct it per se. 

    So, don't underestimate the experience of play. Set up safe spaces for play and encourage it in any way you can. Go ahead and get down on the floor. Don't be afraid to get dirty or the mess you could make. Build forts and castles, run against the wind, dance like nobody's watching, be your favorite superhero for a day—not just for your child, dear parents, but also for yourself. 

    For more articles on how play benefits the kids, click here

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