“…active play…should be included in the very definition of childhood”

From a paper titled: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty.

It is a long read. It’s a complex issue. A lot needs to be said. Here are some highlights (italics mine):

It could be argued that active play is so central to child development that it should be included in the very definition of childhood…

Play is essential to developing social and emotional ties. First, play helps to build bonds within the family. Children’s healthy development is mediated by appropriate nurturing relationships with consistent caregivers. Play allows for a different quality of interaction between parent and child, one that allows parents to “listen” in a very different, but productive, way. When parents observe their children playing or join them in child-driven play, they can view the world through their child’s eyes and, therefore, may learn to communicate or offer guidance more effectively. Less-verbal children may be able to express themselves, including their frustrations, through play, allowing their parents an opportunity to better understand their needs. Above all, the intensive engagement and relaxed interactions that occur while playing tell children that their parents are fully paying attention to them and, thereby, contribute to a strong connection. Play also helps forge connections between children. It allows them to learn how to share, to negotiate and resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills when necessary. It teaches them leadership as well as group skills that may be useful in adult life…

The bottom line to school engagement is that schools should be the kind of places that children and adolescents want to be…

Parents from across the economic spectrum need to understand that it is their presence and their attention that enrich their children and that one-on-one play is a time-tested, effective way of being fully present…

Many children reside in families that face stresses related to daily survival, including whether they will have food or safe shelter, leaving less energy to focus on enrichment opportunities, including play. Some live in neighborhoods where violence may be the norm and children playing on neighborhood playgrounds the exception. School systems are focused on overcoming their academic deficiencies in a safe environment often at the expense of time for arts, recess, physical education classes, and after-school activities that include playing, despite evidence that supports that what happens in play contributes substantially to social and emotional learning, even in the classroom…

The paper was authored by Regina M. Milteer, MD, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, and COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH and Deborah Ann Mulligan, MD, and was recently published in Pediatrics, the “Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Something we knew has been proven. It made me happy. I hope it does the same for you, and your children.

Link via Nancy Frishberg

1 Comment

  1. lily on February 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Some of my best memories of parenting are of playing one-on-one with my children. Of course, some of them have, and have had, more opportunities than others. I got thinking about this, and I don’t remember either of my parents playing one-on-one with me. At least not imaginary play, when I got older we used to play rummy or crib.

    My favorite memories growing up are of imaginary play with my siblings. My brother and I used to act out scenes from our favorite tv show, or play “smash-up-derby cars”. My parents may not have actively played with us, but they gave us the opportunities to play with each other. We had literally miles of open space to explore, and when we asked really nice, we had opportunities to go to the beach and explore some more.

    Yes, play is essential to growing up. It’s where kids act out what it feels like to grow up. Watching a child in imaginary play, especially watching your own child, is like looking in a mirror that speaks truth you wouldn’t know otherwise. You hear your words coming out of their mouths and you recognize who you are to that child. It’s an opportunity to become a better person, so they will become better people as well.

    Love and laughter,

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