Play Ball! Do Sports Count as Play?

Mommy University is so excited to be sponsored by Genius of Play to bring you this post. All opinions expressed are completely my own.

The Genius of Play, an organization that encourages families to make play an important part of a child’s life, recently asked some compelling questions to parents. One that particularly struck me was: Do sports count as play? Many parents (and coaches) have their own views on this and other controversial topics. Here is a video showing the opinion of some parents:

Do I believe sports count as play? Yes I do! Why else would they say “Play ball!” Before a game?

According to Google, play is defined as “an activity engaged in for enjoyment or recreation.” Another definition is “to take part in a sport.” Interestingly, one definition for sport is “to amuse oneself or play in a lively or energetic way.” Now I could end my argument just on these definitions alone but, don’t worry, I won’t. Play and sports are so much more than just simple definitions found during a Google search. Together and independently, play and sport are important for child development.

At Mommy University, we believe that children learn through play. We also believe that sports offer amazing developmental benefits for kids. Then, in some cases, the two work together to help kids grow and learn.

4 Ways Sport and Play Are the Same

Promotes Social Development

Whether it’s a board game, hop scotch, baseball or cheerleading, social skills are needed to succeed. Through play, kids learn to work together, take turns and listen to each other’s suggestions. The same goes for sports. When kids engage in sports they learn important social play skills which helps build friendships. During practice, kids often play fun games to learn skills. While playing, they are becoming better at their sport. In this instance, play and sport go hand in hand.

Teamwork in Sports

Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Playing a game of chess involves a great deal of strategy and problem solving. So does a game of football or soccer. As kids play board games, make their way across the monkey bars or hit a tennis ball over the net, they are enhancing important cognitive skills like reasoning, visual processing, critical thinking and problem solving. Some people may believe sports is not play because it involves strategy and planning; however, what play activity doesn’t? Even imaginary and pretend play involves planning and thinking. The added benefit of sports is the enhancement of motor skills.

Sparks the Imagination

For many, play is all about creating imaginary worlds and pretending to be something or someone else. The same can be said for sports. What baseball player doesn’t pretend he is Derek Jeter when at bat? What about the swimmer her envisions himself swimming faster than a the fastest sea creature? Or how about the gymnast or ice skater who pretends to be light as a feather as they fly through the air? Just like in play that takes place in your living room or backyard, play on the field, in the pool or on the rink involves imagination and visualization. These skills are important to develop comprehension skills as well.

Tyler Soccer

It’s Fun (of course!)

Sports can be hard work, challenging, stressful and overwhelming but they are also fun. Sports should offer a fun environment that allows kids to learn and grow in a variety of ways. Through practices and games, kids are playing and having fun. Even when sports become more competitive and the pressure to win and succeed increases, kids can still have fun. For instance, this past spring, my son’s baseball team was undefeated. Even though there was pressure to continue their winning streak, the boys always had fun before, during and after the game.

What do you think? Is sport play?


You may also enjoy:

10 Benefits of Playing Baseball


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