How Play Benefits Your Anxious Child

Anxiety has an unfortunate way of worming into our lives. The same is true for children. If your child is anxious, you’ve probably looked for solutions to help ease their anxieties. One of the easiest ways to lower stress for your child is by providing opportunity for play.

Not only does play promote your child’s creativity and imagination, it can help them regulate emotions and manage their stress. At ExploraToy, we believe in doing everything we can to equip parents with the tools they need to help their children, so we’ve compiled this list of seven ways play can benefit your anxious child.

  1. It helps them develop important social and emotional skills.

We sometimes underestimate just how much children learn through play. While this certainly applies to things like learning their colors and shapes, free play offers an opportunity for your child to learn critical social and emotional skills.

When children play with others (whether that’s siblings, friends, or even their parents), they learn things like compassion, empathy, and self-control. Children who play with other children learn how to work through conflict as well. These are all skills they need to help manage anxiety and exert emotional control.

  1. Play can help them feel less isolated.

When children are lonely, they’re more likely to feel anxious. Playing with others can give them a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of loneliness. Children benefit from unstructured play with other children, since it offers space for them to make friends and decrease isolation.

Whether they engage in self-directed and imaginative play or spend time completing an activity with their peers, play offers them an opportunity to build social skills. Games like ExploraToy’s Wooden Connect 4 Game offer children a structured activity to enjoy with others, which is great for children who need more help breaking the ice.

  1. Play gives anxious children space to discover new interests.

When children have plenty of time for unstructured play, they are able to do the things that most interest them. While structured activities are great, child-directed play allows children to pursue the things that fascinate them most. This can help them build a stronger sense of self, something that’s vital for anxious children.

This applies to your child’s playtime with you, too. Engage in child-directed play by allowing your child to choose the activities and direct you. Instead of putting your ideas onto your child, give them the freedom to choose their own fun.

  1. Children feel a sense of control when they play.

Anxious children benefit from feeling like they’re in control of the things around them. When they have time to play (especially when it’s self-directed play), they build confidence that will help them reduce stress and anxiety.

You can promote self-directed play by providing your child with toys that stimulate their imagination. While open-ended toys are great for this, activities like puzzles and coloring books are also great for helping your child manage stress. ExploraToy’s Wooden Knob Puzzles are a great activity for your child to enjoy during self-directed play.

  1. Endorphins released during play can give your child’s mood a boost.

Play doesn’t just benefit the emotional and psychological side of your child’s anxiety. Since our bodies release endorphins when we play, play can provide chemical support to help boost your child’s mood. If your child is especially anxious, giving them plenty of time for play can help them manage that anxiety.

Child-led play is especially good for helping your child lower their stress levels. If your child only ever “plays” by doing the things you tell them to do, they may not get as many benefits from their play. Make sure your child has plenty of unstructured time to play to maximize the release of endorphins.

  1. Open-ended play helps them learn how to solve problems.

Your child’s playtime can go a long way in teaching them problem-solving skills. When a situation comes up and causes your child to feel anxious, the skills they’ve built during play can help them work through current stressors.

Children get to try new things during play without the pressure of getting them right. When they fail at an activity, they have the space to try again without fear of repercussions. Your children need the safe space created by play if you want them to develop into healthy adults.

  1. Play brings joy to your child’s life.

While play provides a whole host of benefits, this last one is one of the most important. The antidote to stress is often joy. When your child has plenty of time to play, they are able to add joy to their lives. This joy gives them the emotional tools they need to handle stressors when they arise.

No matter what kind of play they enjoy, it’s important to make space for your child to play. Whether they enjoy puzzles, crafts, or running around outside, the time they spend playing will give them joy in place of their anxieties.


Play is one of the most powerful tools parents can employ to help their anxious child. Not only does it provide children with essential problem-solving and interpersonal skills, but it provides them with the joy they need to combat the stresses of daily life.

If you’re ready to incorporate more play into your anxious child’s life, ExploraToy offers a wide selection of high-quality wooden toys to help your child enjoy the benefits of play. Check out our selection here.