The Power of Play

Why has play been removed from childhood? It’s as if the Grinch came and stole childhood. Apparently we live in an age where tangible goals and fear rule and common sense has been sent to the principal’s office and suspended.

“Bored children do not learn well” is an excerpt from the September 2018 Journal of Pediatrics called the Power of Play. A recent American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report makes the case that play improves executive functioning, helps children buffer the negative effects of toxic stress, and builds 21st century skills.

First look at some fun-zapping stats. 30% of kindergartens limit or completely removed recess from their curriculum, children watch an average of 4.5 hours of television a day, kids passively watch other’s creativity through social media rather than use their own imagination to create, 51% of children had daily play time with a parent, and 94% of parents have safety concerns about outside play.

Just like adults, all work and no play make us dull. Pediatricians are now encouraged to write a prescription for play and to hand this to parents. What!? Are you as baffled as I am…

Play builds a healthy brain. It shapes the architecture and functioning, specifically prosocial behavior, executive functioning, and adaptation. The result is play fosters problem solving, collaboration and creativity. These are important 21st century skills. Furthermore children want to learn when they have a sense of control over their environment and need to know how to work with others in group settings.

Worthwhile activities should be intrinsically motivating, actively engaging, and passionately engrossing. The outcome is then joyful discovery. We all want to do what makes us feel alive. Play inherently does this and sets up success in the other areas of life like school. “From a psychological point of view you can see how play can help children become powerful learners,” says David Whitebread, director of the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning at the University of Cambridge.

So be Cindy Lou and take back play from all the Grinches out there. Come to the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples!

Submitted by: Dr. Brian Thornburg, Thornburg Pediatrics