Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Importance of Play

  I recently read an article about play... sounds fun, huh? Well, it was very interesting. This article brought out how our society has reduced and limited children's play until it is almost non-existent.  Now, don't get me wrong... I am not a proponent of playing ALL day and not doing anything meaningful with our time.  Oh no... not at all.  I just firmly believe that adults and children should work hard, and devote time to playing.  Some of the best people that our world ever produced were people who were hard workers - most from large families - and most were NOT wealthy.  I doubt there is a way to find out, but I wonder if those same people had great childhood play times??

The busy - ness of our culture has limited our children's ability to have time for "free play."  We have errands to run, people to meet, schedules to keep, and on and on.  But "free play" is important. Do we even know what it is anymore?? You know where you go outside with NO TOYS and just pretend... cowboys, indians, princesses, horses, knights in shining armor - all your props made out of what you find outside...  That is "free play."  It isn't organized or dictated  - it's just pure imagination.  This type of play unbelievably does grow and develop children's minds. Though some children can function fine in a busy life, a hurried lifestyle can cause children stress and anxiety.

The other side of this is that we are also so busy trying to "educate" children, that play is even being eliminated from their day at school.  (Another wonderful reason to homeschool ... he he)  But in 1989 most Kindergarten state schools had at least one recess... a survey 10 years later showed that only 70% of state Kindergartens had a recess.  30% of Kindergartens had NO RECESS.  I cannot even comprehend this.  No wonder children are being diagnosed right and left with ADD and ADHD.  Children cannot concentrate when they are penned up for hours on end - they must move!!!  They are built to be moving - they are children!! But American's desire for pushing academics in the earliest grades has driven this movement away from play in schools.

And ,of course, we cannot forget the fact that though considered another form of play itself... video games and television have decreased the amount of "free play" that American children get. There is evidence that passive entertainment not only robs our children of the much needed "free play", but has in itself other harmful effects.

Ideally, we need to make sure that our children have plenty of time for play.  They don't need the most expensive toys, electronics, or even 4 wheelers... they just need their imaginations. I really like this portion from a research article I was reading from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  I don't always like what they have to say - but this has MUCH merit!

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing

their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive,

and emotional strength. Play is important to

healthy brain development. It is through play that

children at a very early age engage and interact in the

world around them. Play allows children to create and

explore a world they can master, conquering their fears

while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction

with other children or adult caregivers. As they master

their world, play helps children develop new competencies

that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency

they will need to face future challenges.

Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in

groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to

learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to

be child driven, children practice decision-making skills,

move at their own pace, discover their own areas of

interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they

wish to pursue.

Play is not just for children, we as adults often suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression.  Have you ever just went fishing?  How destressing is that? or took a hike up some beautiful mountain - WOW!  Take some time to get away from the demands of the world around you - spend some time on the trampoline with the kids, or play freeze tag outside this evening... it's good medicine for both you and your children!!

Related posts
The Preschool Pressure
Hardlining in the Homeschool
The Beauty of Creation

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