10 reasons kindergarteners need play + social skills—more than academics

What do you remember about kindergarten? I remember the adventure of riding the bus. I remember my teacher. And—most of all—I remember playing. Unfortunately, research indicates kindergarten has become more academically focused at the expense of play in recent years.

In response, there’s a growing movement to encourage more play. Between the rise of forest schools, parents getting in on the cause and teachers pushing back, we may soon see more play in the school day. Which is great, because there are some important benefits:

1. It develops social skills

Of course literacy and math skills are important, but sharing, caring and making friends are important lessons, too—and can set the stage for a successful academic career. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health proves kids who hone their social skills in kindergarten are more likely to graduate high school and college.


2. It helps literacy skills

At its core, pretend play is really about telling stories. Whether your kindergartner is a dragon, an elf or a mommy cooking plastic eggs on a plastic stove, they’re exploring a narrative with other characters (kids) and developing literacy skills in the process, according to researchers.

3. It improves motor skills

Kids in kindergarten are clumsy at best. If we want them to be a little less accident prone by first grade, play really is the best prescription. Research shows kindergarten play improves the fundamental motor skills kids need to become physically active for life.

4. It creates engaged citizens

Kindergarten today, volunteer tomorrow: It turns out that kindergarten playtime spent engaging with one’s classmates is a good predictor of future civic engagement, according to a study led by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The research published in Applied Developmental Science links classroom-based play in kindergarten to eighth-grade participation in extracurricular activities such as drama, music clubs and sports. Previous research indicates that kind of extracurricular activity makes kids more likely to volunteer, vote and engage with elected officials later in life.

6. Play at school is different from play at home

According to a study in the American Journal of Play, while many kindergarten teachers focus on academics, almost all see at-school play as beneficial to students socially. Many of the teachers noted playing with classmates is different than the kind of playing kids do at home, which often involves screen time or other solo pursuits.

7. It sets them up for success

The focus on academics in kindergarten classrooms is driven by our desire to see our kids learning. But, as research indicates, they’re better at learning when we let them play. Studies show kids in play-based kindergarten classrooms end up equally as good or better at reading than peers in more structured classes. On top of that, they’re more likely to go on to become well-adjusted, healthy adults.

8. It encourages activity

Free play often leads to active or even rambunctious play. That’s the kind of play that fights obesity and helps kids develop a love of moment that goes beyond kindergarten.

9. It’s a stress reliever

As playtime has declined over the years, experts have witnessed a rise in anxiety, depression and attention problems in school kids. More research published in the American Journal of Play suggests the increased anxiety kids are experiencing is caused by stress inducing, adult-led activities (academics, coached sports and other highly supervised experiences) that have crowded play time out of their days.

10. It makes them happy

According to the same study in the American Journal of Play, play is the favorite activity of kindergarten kids—and should be given priority over structured, adult-led activities. That happiness isn’t temporary, either, as many psychological benefits of play establish mentally healthy mindsets that persist through life.

As any adult will know, there will be plenty of time for tests and homework later. For now, let’s allow our children to learn through playing as much as possible.

These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.

Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin

Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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