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Time for Play Every Day: It's Fun and Fundamental

Written by Pathways Magazine   
Wednesday, 01 June 2005 00:00
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There was a time when children played from morning till night.

They ran, jumped, played dress-up, and created endless stories out of their active imaginations.

Now, many scarcely play this way at all. What happened?

  • Over four and half hours per day watching TV, video games, and computer screens
  • Academic pressure and testing, beginning with three-year-olds
  • Overscheduled lives full of adultorganized activities
  • Loss of school recess and safe green space for outdoor play

    Decades of research clearly demonstrate that play—active and full of imagination —is more that just fun and games. It boosts healthy development across a broad spectrum of critical areas: intellectual, social, emotional, and physical. The benefits are so impressive that every day of childhood should be a day for play.

    Time For PlayThe benefits of play

    Child-initiated play lays a foundation for learning and academic success. Through play, children learn to interact with others, develop language skills, recognize and solve problems, and discover their human potential. In short, play helps children make sense of and find their place in the world.

    Physical development: The rough and tumble of active play facilitates children’s sensorimotor development. It is a natural preventive for the current epidemic of childhood obesity. Research suggests that recess also boosts schoolchildren’s academic performance.

    Academics: There is a close link between play and healthy cognitive growth. It lays the foundation for later academic success in reading and writing. It provides hands-on experiences with real-life materials that help children develop abstract scientific and mathematical concepts. Play is critical for the development of imagination and creative problem- solving skills.

    Social and emotional learning: Research suggests that social makebelieve play is related to increases in cooperation, empathy, and impulse control, reduced aggression, and better overall emotional and social health.

    Sheer joy: The evidence is clear, healthy children of all ages love to play. Experts in child development say that plenty of time for childhood play is one of the key factors leading to happiness in adulthood.