The Importance of Play

How important is it for your child to play? Very important,according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A recent report states thatfree and unstructured play is not only healthy, but essential for your child’ssocial, emotional and cognitive development. Play can also help them managestress and foster healthy brain development.Undirected play allows children to learn how to work ingroups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, discover areas ofpersonal interest, to practice decision-making and self-advocacy skills.The AAP report addresses several forces that threaten orrestrict free play and unscheduled time, including changes in family structure,the increasingly competitive college admissions process, and federal educationpolicies that have led to reduced recess and physical education programs inmany schools.It also suggests that while play can protect and enhance achild’s emotional development, a loss of free time (combined with a hurriedlifestyle) can become a source of stress for children, which could possiblycontribute to anxiety and depression.And, the report suggests, in schools with a more sedentarylearning environment, the lack of physical activity may also contribute to someacademic differences between boys and girls.To help parents help their children make the most of playand free time, the AAP recommends:

  • Encouraging the use of “true toys,” such as blocks and dolls, in which children use their imagination fully, as opposed to passive toys, which require limited imagination
  • Supporting an appropriately challenging academic schedule for each child with a balance of extracurricular activities. This should be based on each child’s unique needs, and not on competitive community standards or the need to meet college admissions standards
  • Helping parents realistically evaluate claims by marketers and advertisers about products or inventions designed to produce “super-children”
  • Encouraging parents to understand that each young person does not need to excel in multiple areas to be considered successful or prepared to compete in the real world
  • Suggesting families choose childcare and early education programs that meet children’s social and emotional developmental needs as well as academic preparedness

A good balance for children,according to the report, is one that allows them to reach their full potentialwithout pushing them beyond their limits; and allowing them adequate personalfree time.


Source: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development andMaintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by the American Academy ofPediatrics.