Can We Play?
Play is disappearing from our homes, our school and our neighbourhoods. Research from the United States tells us that time has been shaved from children’s break times to make more time for academics and sport’s time has doubled. Added to this, TV time has doubled and so children spend less time on play. Then there is the passive leisure time where children and adolescents watch movies, comb the malls and ‘hang out’ with their friends; this has increased from 30 minutes to three hours per week.
It is no surprise that there is a child obesity epidemic. Apart from obesity, there are many other aspects of life in which ‘play’ plays an important role in the lives of all people regardless of where they are intellectually, socially or emotionally.
When we look at the purest form of play, children who use their imagination and develop their own games with little or no equipment and make their own rules really do achieve. As very young and young children play, they learn what life is about. They learn to respect and co-operate with others, grow friendships and work with competition.
Teenagers develop identities and are able to ‘blow off steam’ in safe environments away from drugs. Good, clean fun is found outdoors on bicycles, scramblers, on the beach, at the dam or even walking. Adults who are willing to play, have the potential to achieve greater happiness by simply including ‘play’ into their lives. Play is worth defending because it leads to a happier and healthier life altogether.
Years of research tell us that play teaches children at an early age how deal with conflict on their own. Whilst we watch children play, it gives us, the adult information about children. It can tell us whether they are shy or extrovert or whether they are leaders or followers. Further it has been found that programmes that encourage play rather than academics for children of 5 years old result in them achieving higher IQ levels.
Ref: Dr David Elkind.
Research suggests that some play is more important than other types. For example in drama-type play, children who use their imagination, visualise and make use of “make-believe” will cope better at school when they are required to imagine what they read about, create “make believe” stories or solve arithmetic problems.
French and Canadian schools have found that children, who are allowed to move in class and therefore have their school day broken up with varying activities concentrate better, are less negative about tests and are more creative. It was therefore found that exercise has a positive effect on cognitive ability.
Technology has changed our world. Technologies include our TV’s, computer and play stations. We watch our favourite sport while sitting on the couch rather than going out and playing it ourselves. All this allows for less physical activity. With academics being seen as paramount to everything else, pressure starts early in a child’s life and play is viewed as a waste of precious time. It seems that we are required to prepare our children from an early age to cope in an ever changing society.
Let’s bring back play. It is motivated by pleasure and it is an essential part of maturation. We know that the TV’s, play stations, computer games and long days at school are not going to go away so let’s try to find a happy medium.
Children copy us, so we as adults need to bring fun and play back into our lives. Even large corporates like Google have made play a part of what they do. Work places that recognise the individual see huge improvements in productivity and this improvement will spill over into our homes and influence our children. So let’s build a more playful world.