Slow News: Let the Kids Play

The subject of Play is getting a lot of serious attention these days. For good reason – study after study is illustrating that, in our rush to feed children what we perceive as quality academics, and in our over-scheduling and over-hovering, for fear they’ll be injured or abducted, we are neglecting to give them what they truly need to develop, grow and thrive:

Play. Independent, free, age-appropriate, active, imaginative play.

Nanci Hellmich in USA Today reports that preschoolers spend too much time on sedentary activities. As a result, they’re missing out on important motor-skill development, as well as opportunities for discovery, peer play (and the learning associated with it) and fun.

Alice Park in Time Magazine tells us that physical activity is associated with better academic performance.

At the same time, many schools have reduced recess, and 30% of American schools have cut recess altogether. This may be a bigger problem for children in less advantaged neighborhoods, who may not be as overscheduled as their better-off peers, but lack access to safe play spaces, says a new study from the American Association of Pediatrics.

It’s time for a cultural shift toward recognizing the importance of play for all children’s growth and well-being.

Update. This just in:

Parents are Biggest Obstacle to Letting Kids Play, Janice D’Arcy, Washington Post
Playgrounds too Safe to Keep Little Kids Active, Crystal Phend, MedPage Today
Both feature this study in Pediatrics on the physical activity of pre-school children.

Photo: Susan Sachs Lipman

You may also be interested in:

Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Babies Learn By Playing
New Childrens Book Reminds Us to Play
Slow Family Resources

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6 Responses to Slow News: Let the Kids Play

  1. I very much agree! Good play time is necessary to growing up happy!

  2. Some useful links here. Thanks. At once the issues seem both simple (as a parent I should just let ‘em [force them?!] into unstructured play more) but also systemically and culturally complex. You got me wondering too, whether we as adults play enough to set our kids a good example?

  3. A great blog which highlights some important issues. This is a subject that we’re also really passionate about. We encourage all the families who come and stay on our farm to allow their kids to roam free in our woodland and fields, including building dens, climbing trees and having their own adventures. It’s wonderful seeing the kids becoming more confident and comfortable with the natural world each day.

  4. I totally agree! I think that there should be a balance in terms of how to raise a child to be responsible and well-learned and still growing up knowing about fun where skills in socializing will be greatly developed.

  5. Hello Stuart, Bosinver, and Anne! I appreciate you visiting and commenting.

    Stuart, I think you’re right about parents setting an example for kids. Play expert Lawrence Cohen says that after adolescence, most of us forget how to play. We do things that we perceive to have a “purpose” instead. And you’re right — when parents and now kids don’t know how to play, it becomes a skill that has to be re-taught and learned.

    Bosinver Farm sounds wonderful! And, of course, you provide living proof that kids, and all people, benefit from unstructured time in nature.

    Anne, Yes! I agree that there is a balance. Kids learn so many skills through playing and doing. A family hike provides an opportunity to amble and explore spontaneously together, uncovering things about the natural world at hand, as well as the philosophical one through discussions that come up when allowing for time and space. Kids also learn a great deal from free play with their peers. If we just trust the process — and the fact that children are born curious, playful and wanting to learn — and are present to guide when appropriate, kids will flourish in their right times.

  6. Pingback: How to Get Ready for Kindergarten? Play | Slow Family Online

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