The social benefits of recreation can be traced back to the crib and remain until the last years of life. An infant in the crib is presented with certain toys, perhaps a crib mobile, or a rattle toy. Even a non-toy, such as the mother’s loving gaze and smiling face, are recreational to the infant. Each generates a happy feeling for the baby, and promotes additional interactions with people. The toys, although non-human, act as stimulus for the rapidly growing brain and emotions of the baby. Baby looks, loves the colors and movements and noise of the toys, wants more, and as soon as possible, baby will act in some manner to increase actions of the toys. Reaching for the rattle to shake it to make the little noises, and batting the mobile into action generates a smile and happiness for the infant. More than anything, a mother’s smile and attention create these feelings of well-being and happiness.
Soon, the baby is sitting up, playing with more toys, and occupying untold hours with them. As he or she grows, play time may be reduced by other activities and school, but play time (recreation) remains highly important. It also is a means for interacting with others. And so a lifetime of recreational pursuit begins.
On a broader scale, pursuit of recreation is one of life’s most important goals. The social benefits of recreation have created one of the world’s largest industries, leisure and recreation. Small toys give way to large playgrounds, race tracks, parks and protected lands. Studies have proven that one of the most important social benefits of recreation is the knitting together of humanity in group activities. An organized sport offers leadership opportunities, bonding between friends and family, and even connects multi-cultural groups in a positive manner. Stewardship of the land, reduction of crime, and great benefits to the community are important end results. Employment on both professional and volunteer levels is widespread. Recreational activities unite families, neighbors, and communities. Communities are built up and kept safer by maintaining the healthy environment of local parks.
Beautiful parks and recreational facilities improve the local image and values of property. Many parks offers special facilities for the disabled. The presence of beautiful parks discourages crime merely by the visibility of park users. These lower crime rates can increase property values as well as help residents feel safer. Stewardship of the parks areas by local residents also increases safety as those who take care of the parks want to keep them nice. Local youth can see their efforts literally bloom over time. Seniors find social interaction at park activities. Parks and recreational facilities enhance education.
The health benefits of regular recreation are valid for all social groups and ages. Stress reduction, relief of joint pain, muscle development, cardiovascular benefits, and mental health all are benefits of recreation. Socially, healthy people are more open to others and feel better overall. Recreation is important not only for health, but for social development and should be encouraged and promoted.