The importance of play for family mental health

Explore how play can be good for the emotional wellbeing of both you and your child.
17 Jun, 2024 • 3 min
Father playing with their child who has cardboard wings and goggles on

Play is hugely important for children; encouraging creativity and imagination, developing social skills, and building confidence and resourcefulness.

But it can be easy to forget as we get older and busier, the importance of play for adults too. It can help reduce feelings of stress and loneliness, improve our brain functionality, and enhance our mood.

So, it makes sense that playing together can help support the mental health and wellbeing of the whole family - enhancing relationships, encouraging connection, and helping to build openness and trust.

Whichever activity you choose, play can be good for the emotional wellbeing of you and your child.

Here are some ways that play can help:

Physical game playing

Physical game-playing can benefit the whole family and help counteract the sedentary lifestyle.

Benefits may include:

  • Reduced stress - physical activity reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. 
  • Improved mood - physical activity releases endorphins which function as natural painkillers and mood elevators. 
  • Connection to nature - if you can play outside, spending time in natural environments can benefit health and wellbeing, including reduced anxiety and depression. 

Board and puzzle games

Playing board and puzzle games is a great way to stimulate the mind and develop valuable social skills.

Benefits may include:

  • Teamwork - working together can help build trust and develop bonds, while learning to collaborate is a skill that will serve children well throughout their lives.
  • Opportunity to be supportive - game playing together provides an opportunity to role-model and help children manage their feelings.
  • Learning - board games, puzzles and quizzes can help children learn facts, understand rules, reason and problem-solve. These are transferable skills that can enable children think critically and identify different points of view.

Creative activities

Creative self-expression - for example, through drawing or painting, vocal expression, playing instruments, dancing, or using building blocks - can help children and adults communicate difficult feelings and make better sense of the world.

Benefits may include:

  • Mindfulness - being absorbed in a creative activity that you enjoy can help you to fully inhabit the present moment and find a sense of focused calm.
  • Achievement and fulfilment - children and adults can find a sense of achievement from creative self-expression.
  • Exploring feelings - sometimes words can be a barrier to children expressing how they feel. Creative expression can help children feel heard.