Play with Purpose

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Through it all, it is easy to lose sight of the child’s wishes. Most likely, the child just wants to play, interact, and have fun with others. After all, he or she is still a kid. Play equates to health and fitness, of which benefits abound.

When play equates to health and fitness

Children love to play!

Through it all, it is easy to lose sight of the child’s wishes. Most likely, the child just wants to play, interact, and have fun with others. After all, he or she is still a kid.

Obvious health, fitness and wellness benefits are found in sports, recreation and play. Perhaps equally important, children find a sense of belonging and acceptance through participation. They persist, accomplish, fail and succeed. They talk, listen, scheme, create and dream.

Rules, goals, strategy and benchmarks in their games are tools that teach reasoning, intellect and processing. Play can be spontaneous, competitive, or an avenue to pass the time. It is an opportunity to communicate, make choices, and relieve tension. Through sports, recreation and play, children are exposed to the elements that make life enjoyable and teachable. They develop interests and hobbies. But, most of all, for them it is just plain fun.

Those that can assist in creating leisure, sports and play opportunities, include:

  • Play Therapists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupation Therapists
  • Therapeutic Recreation Specialists
  • Vocation Therapists

Play with purpose has benefits

The benefits of recreation and play are the same whether a disability exists or it doesn’t. Physical activity and play experiences help develop and promote individual health, fitness, and well-being. Many school-aged special needs students have Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals related to play and recreational opportunities. These activities take place in the school, at home and out within the community.

Likely, the child’s parents and caretakers will be urged to expose the child to regular exercise regimens. In addition, recreation and play can serve as “play with purpose,” providing further therapy. Programs outside school, such as community parks and recreation activities, community center programs, sports team opportunities, playground activities, and support group events provide additional opportunities to meet care plan goals.

Physical and recreational therapy is an important treatment component for those with Cerebral Palsy. They provide an opportunity for family, friends, classmates, and neighbors to embrace fun activities that can be shared with those who have special needs.

Much is to be gained through recreation and play. A child obtains self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization, and self-efficacy from play. Play also boosts the ego, stimulates creative thinking, releases emotion and provides opportunities to practice skills and roles.

Benefits of leisure, sports and play include:

  • Health, fitness and well-being
  • Cognitive skill development
  • Enhanced communication
  • Emotional growth
  • Fine and gross motor development
  • Creative expression
  • Happiness
  • Independence
  • Leadership abilities
  • Mental strength
  • Motor development
  • Perception
  • Personal growth and development
  • Problem solving
  • Self-advocacy skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Social development
  • Socialization and human interaction
  • Tolerance

Examples of plan elements for leisure, sports and play include:

  • Childcare, daycare, and respite experiences
  • Community and community center programs
  • Local parks and recreation activities
  • Mentoring organizations
  • Play and support groups
  • Playgrounds
  • School-related activities
  • Sports teams
  • Summer camp
  • Support group events
  • Therapy

Inclusive, barrier-free opportunities abound

Today, much progress has been made in creating opportunities for children with varying degrees and types of disabilities to play, socialize, and enjoy social interaction. Legislation has provided a means to which inclusive, accessible, barrier-free opportunities are afforded to all. This allows children with or without disability to participate in recreation, play and sports – as well as to “fit-in” as they bond with other children who have similar disability, and with those who do not.

A broad range of sports programs and outdoor activities are available year-round for children with disabilities. With adaptive equipment, assistive technology, communication devices, special clothing and modified gear, individuals with disabilities are able to choose areas of interest to explore and excel. Some programs are considered inclusionary and provide trained instructors, specialized techniques, along with modified guidelines and rules to accommodate those with disability. Although these programs are designed specifically for those with special needs, others without disability are encouraged to play and participate, as well, thereby promoting inclusion, accessibility, accommodation, and acceptance.

Depending on the extent and severity of the individual’s Cerebral Palsy, pediatricians and other care team members will likely recommend the least restrictive environment appropriate for each child.


two friends hugging


When a child with a disability reaches adulthood, feelings about acceptance by others may linger. If young people learn to accept themselves during their formative years, explore interests, form friendships, accomplish, interact, and socialize at age-appropriate stages, it can help empower a sense of belonging when they’ve grown.

Learn more

For more helpful tips, visit
Managing Cerebral Palsy and
Maximizing Potential.