Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Play is serious business

Stuart Brown created the National Institute for Play in 1996 after more than 20 years of psychiatric practice and research persuaded him of the dangerous long-term consequences of play deprivation.

According to Brown, "If you look at what produces learning and memory and well-being, play is as fundamental as any other aspect of life, including sleep and dreams.’’

Play (or lack of ) is the one thing that most educators, parents, and psychologists agree on. Educators fret that school officials are hacking away at recess to make room for an increasingly crammed curriculum. Psychologists complain that over scheduled kids have no time left for the real business of childhood: idle, creative, unstructured free play. Public health officials link insufficient playtime to a rise in childhood obesity. Parents bemoan the fact that kids don’t play the way they themselves did — or think they did. And everyone seems to worry that without the chance to play stickball or hopscotch out on the street, to play with dolls on the kitchen floor or climb trees in the woods, today’s children are missing out on something essential.

Play is serious business.
Scientists who study play, in animals and humans alike, are developing a consensus view that play is something more than a way for restless kids to work off steam; more than a way for chubby kids to burn off calories; more than a frivolous luxury. Play, in their view, is a central part of neurological growth and development — one important way that children build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains.

Play vs time.
ROBIN MARANTZ HENIG in a recent article in NY Magazine describes the battle between time and play as, " There are only six hours in a school day, only another six or so till bedtime, and adults are forever trying to cram those hours with activities that are productive, educational and (almost as an afterthought) fun. Animal findings about how play influences brain growth suggest that playing, though it might look silly and purposeless, warrants a place in every child’s day. Not too overblown a place, not too sanctimonious a place, but a place that embraces all styles of play and that recognizes play as every bit as essential to healthful neurological development as test-taking drills, Spanish lessons or Suzuki violin."

More on Henig article called, "Taking Play Seriously."