Americans tend to not be as happy as we should be – especially considering our disproportionate share of the world’s wealth and resources. Having been one for almost 60 years, I can personally and professionally attest to the fact Americans tend to be among the most up-tight and least content of all cultures. We have been conditioned to expect more, better, and cheaper – a real sense of entitlement and ego-driven arrogance. One of the problems is that most Americans equate having fun (i.e., play) as something they need to pay for (e.g., new gadgets and games; tickets to sporting events; fast cars and more.) As a culture, we need to rediscover our willingness and ability to have fun (play) that does not cost so much. We need to play our own music and dance our own dances.
In this article I focus on the important role that play has in keeping us happy and healthy – as well as hip and high. In particular, I review a wonderful book entitled “Play” by Dr Stuart Brown. You can also read interviews with the author. He is also the founder of what must be a great place to work: The National Institute for Play which uses science to discover all that play has to teach us about transforming our world. Then I have collected a “Top 40” awesome quotes about play – why, how and when to do it. Then I present a series of articles about how and why we need to play more. BTW – when reading about how play affects children recognize that the information generally applies to adults and children of any generation. Click below to read how to play more now – and Why it OK to do it!!
In his book simply entitled “Play,” Dr. Brown identifies several hallmarks of play, to distinguish it from other activities that may look the same but have an entirely different purpose. He notes that play…
- Is voluntary, purposeless and done for its own sake.
- Possesses an inherent attraction—you don’t play to reach some other end, it is an end in itself.
- Frees the player from the ordinary consciousness of time passing.
- Lowers self-consciousness.
- Holds improvisational potential—at least some outcomes and strategies in play are not pre-determined.
- Is marked by a distinct desire to continue the playful activity.
Brown does a very good job of explaining, in a very lively, engaging way, why play is a biological necessity for humans. In many animal species, play is a normal behavior for juveniles but not for adult animals. The advanced intelligence of humans, however, makes it imperative that people continue playing throughout life.
Free play in childhood socializes us and helps us develop self-confidence. As we create games or play old favorites like kickball or hopscotch, we learn what rules make the game fun, which ones can be broken without breaking our relationships, and which rules can be modified to suit the context of the present moment. Play juices our problem-solving abilities. …
The opposite of play is not work, it is depression. Being unable or unwilling to play is a sign of something much more serious than just an attempt to be “serious” or “industrious.” Jokes, games, flirtation, and flights of fantasy breathe life into over-stressed and change-buffeted lives.
Play is the mother of invention—not necessity. Brown aptly points that if necessity were all it took, Polaroid would have invented its way out of the declining consumer market for photographic film once digital cameras made film cameras more or less obsolete. Instead, the company stayed with its staid product line, and eventually declared bankruptcy. Play introduces new, potentially threatening ideas in a sideways sort of fashion, and allows them to be tinkered with until they are ready to be tested in the so-called real world.
About the Author
Stuart Brown, M.D. is founder of the National Institute of Play, former clinical director and chief of psychiatry at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and an associate professor at the University of California-San Diego. He is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and the founder of the National Institute for Play. He speaks regularly to Fortune 500 companies and groups across the country on the importance of play in our lives. Most recently, he appeared at the New York Public Library. The producer of a three-part PBS series, The Promise of Play, he has also appeared on NPR and was featured in a cover story in The New York Times Magazine. He calls play “the single most significant factor in determining our success and happiness,” and he means it. His book is a persuasive argument that play is not some childhood leftover, to be outgrown and discarded, but a lifelong necessity for keeping our brains supple and our relationships vital.
Dr. Brown’s National Institute for Play unlocks the human potential through play in all stages of life using science to discover all that play has to teach us about transforming our world.
Have you ever wondered about the importance of “play” in our lives, and not only just in our personal lives but also in our work lives? Dr. Brown co-author of “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” shares with us some insight into his research and how important play really is in our lives.
Q: How do you know play is important to both adults and children?
Dr. Brown: In my career I have reviewed more than 6000 life histories, looking specifically at a person’s play experiences over his or her life. In studying these histories it has become vividly apparent that play is enormously significant for both children and adults. … Highly successful people have a rich play life. It is also established that play affects mental and physical health for both adults and children. … An adult who has “lost” what was a playful youth and doesn’t play will demonstrate social, emotional and cognitive narrowing, be less able to handle stress, and often experience a smoldering depression. From an evolutionary point of view, research suggests that play is a biological necessity. There is evidence that suggests the forces that initiate play lie in the ancient survival centers of the brain–the brain stem–where other anciently preserved survival capacities also reside. In other words, play is a basic biological necessity that has survived through the evolution of the brain. And necessity=importance. But one of the strongest arguments for the importance of play is how strongly we identify ourselves through our play behavior. Play is who we are.
Q: What are the areas of our culture most in need of “play hygiene?”
Dr. Brown: Most adults have “forgotten” what it was like to engage in free play when they were kids. And truthfully, they may have not had much experience with free play when they were young. Beginning in preschool, the natural mayhem that 3-5 year olds engage in (normal rough and tumble play) is usually suppressed by a well meaning preschool teacher and parents who prefer quiet and order to the seeming chaos that is typical of free childhood play. … The awareness on the part of parents and teachers of the value of free child-organized (meaning lightly supervised) play for elementary school children at recess is another area where greater insight about play hygiene is needed. Play should also be used with teachers in their classroom, and by parents when they help their child with homework. Learning should not be drudgery. Play promotes true intellectual curiously. It has been shown to increase lifetime performance, just as adequate recess time leads to increased long term academic accomplishments. Also, parents need to control their anxieties about maximizing every minute of their child or young adult’s time to increase their competitiveness and performance so that their college resumes will be strong. With every moment scripted by adult ambitions for them, kids cannot become naturally attuned to their innate talents.
Q: How can a review of one’s own life history of their play help?
Dr. Brown: If adults can begin to reminisce about their happiest and most memorable moments, they can capture the emotion and visual memories of those moments and begin to connect again to what truly excites them in life. Generally, a person’s purest emotional profile—temperament, talents, passions– is reflected in positive play experiences from childhood. If you can understand your own emotional profile when it was in its purest form, you can begin to apply it to your adult life. Going through this process may encourage someone to give serious consideration to shifting to another job that may bring them more joy, or to infuse their current life with those elements that once brought them enlivenment but may have been left behind as they conformed to cultural stereotypes of success.
Q: If you could only cite one discovery you have made about play that continues to excite you what would it be?
Dr. Brown: It is that we, as homo sapiens, are fundamentally equipped for and need to play actively throughout our lifespan by nature’s design. While most social mammals have a life cycle that involves dominance and submissiveness (as in Chimpanzee troops or wolf packs) with play diminishing significantly as adulthood arrives, we retain the biology associated with youthfulness despite still dying of old age! By this I mean that our overall long period of childhood dependency, which is dominated by the need for play, does not end with our reaching adulthood. Our adult biology remains unique among all creatures, and our capacity for flexibility, novelty and exploration persists. If we suppress this natural design, the consequences are dire. The play-less adult becomes stereotyped, inflexible, humorless, lives without irony, loses the capacity for optimism, and generally is quicker to react to stress with violence or depression than the adult whose play life persists. In a world of major continuous change (and we are certainly facing big changes now) playful humans who can roll with the punches and innovate through their play-inspired imaginations will better survive. Our playful natures have arrived at this place through the trial and error of millions of years of evolution, and we need to honor our design to play.
About the Book
From a leading expert, a groundbreaking book on the science of play, and its essential role in fueling our intelligence and happiness throughout our lives. We’ve all seen the happiness in the face of a child while playing in the school yard. Or the blissful abandon of a golden retriever racing with glee across a lawn. This is the joy of play. By definition, play is purposeless and all-consuming. And, most important, it’s fun. As we become adults, taking time to play feels like a guilty pleasure—a distraction from “real” work and life. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. In fact, our ability to play throughout life is the single most important factor in determining our success and happiness. … Play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. Play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people.
Beyond play’s role in our personal fulfillment, its benefits have profound implications for child development and the way we parent, education and social policy, business innovation, productivity, and even the future of our society. From new research suggesting the direct role of three-dimensional-object play in shaping our brains to animal studies showing the startling effects of the lack of play, Brown provides a sweeping look at the latest breakthroughs in our understanding of the importance of this behavior. A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.
At a camp in the wild and windswept Canadian north, a polar bear lopes toward an Eskimo sled dog. In a minute, it will all be over. But wait! The dog is wagging his tail and bowing, all set to play—and to the astonishment of the musher, now the two animals are romping and rolling exuberantly, until the bear finally has to lie on his back for a time-out. To Stuart Brown, MD, a psychiatrist who has spent decades researching play, the whole interaction makes rip-roaring sense. After all, he writes, playing is both a survival skill that helps you cope with life and one of the great creature comforts; it’s even a biological necessity, shaping and sharpening our brains. His thoughtful investigation, Play, written with Christopher Vaughan, makes having fun sound like—well, fun, whether you’re dancing, flirting, risk-taking, joking, shopping, painting, or working at something you love. Read this book, then start paying back your “play deficit”—and let the good times roll. Stuart Brown’s thoughtful investigation, Play, written with Christopher Vaughan, makes having fun sound like – well, fun, whether you’re dancing, flirting, risk- taking, joking, shopping, painting, or working at something you love. Read this book, then start paying back your “play deficit” – and let the good times roll.
From Publishers Weekly (March)
Brown reveals that play is an essential way humans learn to socialize. Beginning with the very first play interactions between mother and child, and working up to adult relationships between couples and co-workers, Brown describes how play helps brain development and promotes fairness, justice and empathy. Work and play are mutually supportive, he argues, noting that play increases efficiency and productivity (playful folks, he claims, are also healthier). Sprinkled with anecdotes demonstrating the play habits of subjects as diverse as polar bears and corporate CEOs, Brown and co-writer Vaughan present a compelling case for promoting play at every age. The authors include helpful tips for bringing play back into grownup lives, including being active, spending time with others who are playful and rethinking the misguided notion that adult play is silly or undignified.
Other Reviewers’ Comments
“This is one of the most important books I have ever read. Now, more than ever, we need to think more creatively. Dr. Stuart Brown shows us the way. Without play and physical activity we can’t cultivate the skills necessary to handle changing times. For our own sake and the sake of our children, we need to play again with exuberance and give it the place in our lives it deserves. Anyone who cares about the future of our world should read this book. It is a gift.” – John J. Ratey, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
“Stuart Brown introduces us to the importance of play in the lives of animals and humans, its role in developing social and locomotive skills in children, freedom from inhibitions and creative thinking in later life. This important book explores how play can improve – and joyously change – your life.” – Jane Goodall Ph.D., DBE , founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace
“For all those who do not play enough–out of guilt, because they don’t have enough time, or for any other reason–this is a must read. In a world obsessed with hard work, Stuart Brown’s playful yet serious exploration of play is a breath of fresh air. Reading this book can help the reader become happier and more successful.” – Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., author of Happier
“Stuart Brown has spent his career exploring and explaining what few others take seriously: that play makes us better people and that play makes the world a better place. Play is fun, natural, and necessary; Play is an important and inspiring book.” – David Kelley, Founder of IDEO and Institute of Design at Stanford University
“[Brown] has collected more than 6,000 “play histories” from human subjects. The founder of the National Institute for Play, he works with educators and legislators to promote the importance of preserving playtime in schools. He calls play ‘a fundamental biological process.’ ‘From my viewpoint, it’s a major public health issue,’ he said. “ – Tara Parker Pope New York Times
“Finally, a good excuse to goof off… [Brown] builds a compelling case for the importance of recreation to success and creativity – and insists that grown-ups need it too.”
Key Quotes by Author of this book:
Play fosters belonging and encourages cooperation.
Play keeps us fit physically and mentally.
Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.
Play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair; it helps us learn perseverance and gain optimism.
Additional Quotes about Play (in No Particular Order)
Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. – Mark Twain
The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. – G K Chesterton
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions. – Mark Twain
It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Life must be lived as play. – Plato
Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. – Michael Jordan
In our play we reveal what kind of people we are. – Ovid
Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning. – Diane Ackerman
Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. – Abraham Maslow
Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold. – Joseph Chilton Pearce
Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. – Mr. (Fred) Rogers
To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well. – George Santayana
People tend to forget that play is serious. – David Hockney
Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. – Kay Redfield Jamison
Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play. – Heraclitus
Surely all God’s people…like to play. – John Muir
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father. – Roger von Oech
You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct. – Carl Jung
In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior. In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself. – Lev Vygotsky
Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play. – Henri Matisse
The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression. – Brian Sutton-Smith
Play is training for the unexpected. – Marc Bekoff
Creative play is like a spring that bubbles up from deep within. – Joan Almon
Human beings need pleasure the way they need vitamins. – Lionel Tiger
When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero. – Mr. (Fred) Rogers
The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable. – Carl Jung
In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. – Friedrich Nietzsche
Play is hard to maintain as you get older. You get less playful. You shouldn’t, of course. – Richard Feynman
If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society. – Jean Piaget
A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him. – Pablo Neruda
It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. – D.W. Winnicott
Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play. – Johan Huizing
The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery. – Erik H. Erikson
Ritual grew up in sacred play; poetry was born in play and nourished on play; music and dancing were pure play…. We have to conclude, therefore, that civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it. – Johan Huizing
We all need empty hours in our lives or we will have no time to create or dream. – Robert Coles
The child amidst his baubles is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, in all these spheres (in painting, sculpture, drawing, music, singing, dancing, gymnastics, games, sports, writing, and speech) we can carry on to our heart’s content, all through our long lives, complex and specialized forms of exploration and experiment. – Desmond Morris
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Apple Computers
Play is extremely important for humans from birth to death. Play is not meant to be just for children. It is a form of release and connection that can tap into creativity and can allow you the chance to connect with your inner child and the inner child of others. Play is a state of mind, but it is also a state of body, emotion, and spirit. Yes…it is something you do (playing games, swinging, playing “tag”, playing with dolls), but it is also something you watch others do, and gain pleasure from simply watching. It is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet it is something we take for granted and may forget to do. It can be entirely positive, or can be dramatic (such as acting out a thrilling or suspenseful activity). Play can be used in many ways to not only stimulate creativity but as a way to transform negative emotions. We are hardwired as adults to engage in play, and it is crucial to our vitality to spend time with play each day. This article will address the top ten benefits of play and provide suggestions on how you can get in touch with your own creative possibilities and abilities.
1. Play can inspire you to think differently
Yes, play can be wild and crazy — it can break all the rules and can crash the status quo and the hum-drum way of doing the same old thing. Walt Disney was dedicated to play, and his willingness to buck conventional wisdom changed the world of entertainment. He did not allow the criticisms of the world to get in the way of his child-like imagination. The next time you are stuck in a rut, pull out a box of crayons, modeling clay, glue, and scissors, pop in a copy of Dumbo, and invite your inner child to let loose and break free. You will be amazed at the way your thinking shifts to new worlds of discovery.
2. Playing can bring greater joy into your life
What do you think the world would be like if every human spent time each day in play? I bet just asking you this question has brought a smile to your face. Play creates laughter, joy, and a feeling of inner peace. It is almost impossible to stay stuck, angry, or frustrated when you are playing “hide and seek” or acting out the role of the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz or making mud pies while digging your feet into the sand of a big old-fashioned sandbox. Starting today, carve out 30 minutes each day to engage in some form of play, and watch your joy factor rise!
Studies show that as humans, play is hardwired into our genetic code. As humans, we crave the need to play because it is instinctive and fundamental to human existence. With regular play, our problem-solving and adaptive abilities will be in much better shape to handle this complex world, and we are much more likely to choose healthy answers to challenging situations as they arise. The reason for this is that play teaches us how to manage or “transform” our negative emotions, and it is the foundation for sound mental, physical, and emotional health. Play can make work seem like pleasure, and aside from this, it is just plain fun! It creates laughter and freedom that can instantly reduce stress and add a feeling of relaxation to our daily living.
4. Playing on a regular basis can increase longevity
Our genetic code demands that we play, just as it demands that we sleep, and when we resist this primal urge, our physical, emotional and mental energies are deeply depleted. The loss of well-being is creating physical, emotional, and mental burnout, and stress-related health problems are widespread. Infusing play into the day can keep you emotionally balanced and can reduce stress, both of which can contribute to living healthier and longer. The next time you are feeling stressed as if you can’t add one more thing to your full plate, take a break. Hit the basketball court, play hopscotch, jump rope, or play a few hands of cards. You will be adding years to your life in these precious moments.
5. Play can reduce struggle, conflict, and worry
Through the years, studies have revealed that play acts as an antidote to violent tendencies and is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. People who avoid or have never learned to play may become lost in the world of fear, anger, and obsessive worry. Play provides us with an opportunity to choose alternatives to struggle, conflict, and worry, which are healthier and positive and fosters a sense of belonging and connection to other people.
6. Play can increase your sense of lightness
At play, we are all children. Unburdened by consciousness or self-consciousness, we are caught in the moment. Suffused with pleasure, we exult in the sheer lightness of being. Yet, as welcome and wonderful as those feelings are, play’s value among adults is too often vastly underrated. It refreshes us and recharges us. It restores our optimism. It changes our perspective, stimulating creativity. It renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world. But there is also new evidence that play does much more. It may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process. Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, and to meet any possible set of environmental conditions. Play is an opening to our very being.
7. Play can stimulate the imagination, curiosity, and creativity
Research shows that play is a hands-on, minds-on learning process. It produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. We begin giving meaning to life through story making, and playing out various possible scenarios. … If we drive the same way to work, eat the same foods, live the same grind day in and day out, our minds begin to stagnate and we loose our zest for creativity. We are always creating our experiences and our lives, so why not have some fun and develop a thirst for curiosity like Leonardo Da Vinci; your renewed sense of imagination could be endless!
8. Playing softens the heart — as the heart becomes malleable, the risks of hypertension and depression decrease
Think about the focused intentional mind of a child and how quickly they can manifest something if they are able to freely think of limitless possibilities. We can learn so much by observing the messages of the children. You literally become what you think about most. Your life becomes what you have imagined and believed in most. The world is literally your mirror, enabling you to experience in the physical plane what you hold as your truth … until you change it. It is so important because, as we are learning Quantum Physics and the power of what we create with our intentions, the knowledge you gain will help you enhance your personal growth and well-being. This is just one example of where you can visibly see the effects of play on your well-being.
9. Play can greatly enhance your energy levels
Life — It can be hard. We’ve all been there: overworked, stressed, mentally and physically burned out. Day in and day out, you feel like you’ve “hit the wall” — too tired to work out, dragging through the day, and continually exhausted even when you first wake up. We’re overdoing it. It’s just a fact of life, and we need to live with it, right? Wrong! Mental and physical exhaustion is the body’s natural response to physical exertion, emotional stress, or lack of sleep. Normally, we reach for a quick fix by drinking coffee, sugared energy drinks, or resorting to pep-up pills like ephedrine. The problem is, those stimulants provide only a temporary boost, lasting an hour at best. Worse, after they wear off, your energy levels crash, leaving you even more exhausted than before. Playing safely gives your body back the energy it needs through laughter. Doing things that bring you joy and being with other people who are having fun enables you to keep your energy levels up longer and sustain more vitality.
10. Play can provide you with an opportunity to take risks
When we are engaged in living our lives as a game and being the player, we begin to recognize the contradictions in our own risk-taking behavior, and it makes the case that accepting risk is an essential part of a full and healthy life. Play lets us experiment, explore and take risks with ideas without fearing the consequences that might happen in “real life.” For too many of us, what is considered taking a risk is sometimes nothing more than taking an easier course. Play helps us release those thoughts that are locked in the head and the heart. Play also helps us learn our way, develop curiosity, learn to think, make new choices, discover special talents, build social relationships, make things less scary, and experience new enthusiasm for life. These factors are the very basis for a happy life and are most critical to our evolution. The wonderful thing about playing is that everyone is successful at it. Don’t use playtime to test or stretch your workday. It is a time to feel good about yourself and each other — and to just have fun together. Perhaps, most important of all, play is fun. Years later, when we recall our life, it is the happy times spent playing with special people that we remember most fondly.
It is through play that we do much of our learning. We learn best when we are having fun. Play, more than any other activity, fuels healthy development of children — and the continued healthy development of adults. Play takes many forms, but the heart of all play is pleasure. If it isn’t fun, it isn’t play. We play from birth on — we play using our bodies (building with blocks) and our minds (fantasy play). We use words to play (jokes, wit, humor) and we use props (blocks, toys, games). While the exact nature of play evolves, becoming more complex as we grow, play at all ages brings pleasure.
Play enhances every domain of a child’s development. Gross-motor skills, such as walking, kicking, or skipping, can be strengthened when a toddler pushes a toy grocery cart or an older child jumps rope. … When throwing and catching a ball, a child practices hand-eye coordination and the ability to grasp.
Children practice and develop language skills during play. A child’s play with words, including singsong games and rhymes that accompany games of tag, can help him master semantics, practice spontaneous rhyming, and foster word play. The child’s cognitive capacity is enhanced in games by trial and error, problem solving, and practice discriminating between relevant and irrelevant information. Play requires the child to make choices and direct activities and often involves strategy, or planning, to reach a goal.
Interpersonal/social skills, ranging from communication to cooperation, develop in play. Children learn about teamwork when they huddle together and decide who plays each position in a pick-up soccer game. The child gains an understanding about those around him and may become more empathic and less egocentric. When playing with peers, children learn a system of social rules, including ways to control themselves and tolerate their frustrations in a social setting. …
The primary inhibitor of play for American children is television. Watching television is a passive, noncreative time. On average, our children watch 28 hours of television each week — all stealing time from social interactions, abstract thinking, creativity, and play. The use of this passive medium in the classroom should be very limited. An hour of “educational” television does not have the same power as an hour of creative play. The second major inhibitors of play are adults. Our children are overtired and overscheduled. We wake them before the sun rises and often keep them scheduled in school, after-school programs and lessons, and sports well into the night. They have little time to themselves, and too few opportunities for unstructured play.
One of the most important forms of play is playing with ideas. Abstract thinking is play. When a child fantasizes, he is playing. By taking images, ideas, and concepts from inside their own minds and re-organizing, sorting, and re-connecting in new ways, children create. They create play worlds, hopes, desires, and wishes. They imagine being a ball player, a dancer, a superhero, a teacher. In der to facilitate this, children need more moments of quiet. Children need more solitude. Children need less external, electronic, and structured adult-world stimulation.
As early as infancy, children immerse themselves in play activities with the purpose of making sense of the world around them. Play gives children the opportunity to learn and experience things themselves, which is vital for their development. Although peek-a-boo games seem pointless to adults, tots are awed by the surprise that awaits them as they see the suddenly emerging faces of people they love. … Play benefits the child in ways that might be a tad difficult for adults to imagine.
1. Play brings pure and utter joy.
A toddler who jumps into an empty box and runs around the house ‘driving a car’ shows the sheer happiness that play brings him or her. When children are asked what they did in school and they answer ‘play,’ it is a clear sign that these kids remember a feeling of genuine joy that is captured in this four-letter word.
2. Play fosters socio-emotional learning.
What does a ten-month-old baby who shrieks at the sight of her stuffed toy have in common with a ten-year-old boy who plays basketball with his friends? They both deal with their confidence as they choose to embark on their play activities. At the same time, they are displaying their independence in the decisions that they make. These two children are also internalizing social rules in their respective play situations: the baby waits patiently for her stuffed toy to appear, while the school-age child has to contend with an impending loss in a ball game.
3. Play hones physical and motor development.
Play often involves the use of the senses, the body, and the extremities. When children play, they exercise their bodies for physical strength, fluidity of movement, balance and coordination. Perceptual-motor ability, or the capacity to coordinate what you perceive with how you move, is an essential skill that preschoolers need to develop. A three-year-old who is engrossed in digging, scooping, and pouring sand into a container must match his or her perception of the space in front of him or her with actual hand movements, so that he or she can successfully fulfill the motor activity.
4. Play facilitates cognitive learning.
Play is vital to the intellectual development of a child. We live in a symbolic world in which people need to decode words, actions, and numbers. For young children, symbols do not naturally mean anything because they are just arbitrary representations of actual objects. The role of play is for the child to understand better cognitive concepts in ways that are enjoyable, real, concrete, and meaningful to them. … Through play, the child is constructing his or her worldview by constantly working and reworking his understanding of concepts.
5. Play enhances language development.
Toddlers who are still grappling with words need to be immersed in oral language so they can imitate what they hear. They benefit from songs and rhymes that provide the basis for understanding how language works. When these tots are playing with toys, adults model to them how language is used to label objects or describe an event. At play, preschoolers use language to interact, communicate ideas, and likewise learn from dialogues with more mature members of society.
6. Play encourages creativity.
Barney the dinosaur was right about using imagination to make things happen. A lump of Play-Do suddenly turns into spaghetti with meat sauce and cheese; a small towel transforms into a cape that completes a superhero’s wardrobe; and a tin can serves as a drum that accompanies an aspiring rock artist. Play opens an entire avenue for children to express themselves, show what they know and how they feel, and to create their own masterpieces.
7. Play provides bonding opportunities.
Play is an important factor in child development. It provides for interaction, experimentation, and moral development. Here are some ways by which parents can encourage and support their children’s playtime. Let each child be the player-leader. Help them help themselves.