Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pediatricians Urge Free Play

How do your kids play? Are they getting enough free play time? Are you?

Highlights from a new American Academy of Pediatrics report on the importance of play at home and at school. Here is what they're saying...
  • Children need free play at home and at school
  • Play is essential for the cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being of children and youth
  • Undirected free play:
    • Allows children to develop imagination and physical, mental, and emotional strength
    • Helps children conquer fears, practice adult roles, and develop confidence
    • Allows children to learn to work with others, share, and self-advocate
    • Builds active, healthy bodies
  • Play is essential for learning
    • It helps children adjust to school settings
    • It enhances learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem-solving skills
  • Free play and recess are declining in American schools
    • In 1989, 96% of school systems had at least one recess period
    • In 1999, only 70% of kindergarten classrooms had recess
    • Today, school responses to the No Child Left Behind Act often results in reduced time for recess, creative arts, and physical education
This report clearly shows that free play is critical for the healthy development of children--and this includes "inner children"!

Our world is becoming increasingly focused on technological play to the detriment of free play. Kids, and adults, spend a lot of time--perhaps too much time--in front of a computer. While they may be playing fun, interactive games, it is vital that we build in enough free play with "real person face time."

What does this look like? Play time where there is no agenda. Games where there are open-ended rules or options. Person to person face time where we are physically and emotionally together. After all, we are social-emotional beings. Basically, it is making stuff up--either by ourselves or with others. After all, isn't that what the great artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and engineers do which make our country great?

Hey, get out there and PLAY! Make stuff up!