Play is a natural way that children learn critical thinking, resilience, and social skills. Play also enhances creativity, problem solving and cooperation. The play can be with other children or with you the parent. But it must be ‘free’ play, meaning it is play where children have the chance to make things up as they go, and adults are not telling them what to do. There are so many different kinds of play: including rough and tumble physical play, outdoor running around play, playing with toys, such as blocks or pretend play. Any type will provide benefits, as long as the children are free to choose on their own what they want to do.According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is not frivolous.” Play teaches children the kinds of life skills we want them to have as adults: collaboration, negotiation, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, decision-making, and leadership. Play even reduces stress and can help protect kids from growing up with toxic levels of stress due to poverty and other sources of childhood adversity.
In recent years, unfortunately, children are being robbed of time to play. This is because even well-meaning parents and schools often overemphasize academics and scheduled activities in the hopes of giving children a greater chance of success in life. Studies show that as the time devoted to recess has dwindled, the time devoted to preparing for standardized tests has increased. As children’s stress levels are going up because of increasing academic pressures, the time they have for play, which is the natural outlet for stress, is going down.
It is time to reverse course and re-prioritize play. We must shift our mindset away from stressing academics, to emphasizing more room for playtime. Parents can’t do this alone. The whole community needs to get in the act. The shift will be challenging. Many may fear giving up all the focus on academics. Parents may feel too exhausted to play with their kids. But the evidence is mounting in favor of play, especially for younger children. Time spent with your child playing and providing them with free time to play with others will reap all positive benefits you as a parent wants for your child. They will do better in school, with friends and later on in the workplace. They will even have a deeper relationship with you. Isn’t that worth the time and effort to make it happen. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes in the benefits of play so strongly, that they are urging pediatricians to actually ‘prescribe play.’ The good news is, play will be a prescription that doesn’t cost anything has no side effects, no bad taste and is easy to give.
You can read what is in the American Academy of Pediatrics report: Want Creative, Curious, Healthier Children with 21st Century Skills? Let Them Play
Written by Regina Pally, Founder and Co-Director CRC