America’s top doctors say pediatricians should prescribe more playtime to children.
In a new report published today, titled The Power Of Play, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there is clear evidence that playing around is key for development – whether it’s with friends or with their parents.
The authors say the report is much needed, since the amount of time kids spend playing has plummeted in the last two decades.
Compared to kids of the 80s, today’s kids under 11 have far less free time – 12 fewer hours a week – and 30 percent of school children spend their breaks indoors.
In the last 10 years, researchers have uncovered a wealth of evidence to show why playtime is so essential. But doctors fear kids are not getting as much free time as they need because parents and schools are filling up their hours with other things (file image)
‘There is a whole section of our report that talks about the importance of play in preschool settings and how important it is to find a balance of playful learning with the more traditional curriculum,’ lead author Dr Michael Yogman of Mount Auburn Hospital told WBZ-TV.
‘Some people say play is a waste of time. Well it’s not a waste of time.’
The authors explain that childhood is a crucial moment of developing key skills that will impact a person for the rest of their life.
These include social-emotional skills, cognitive development, language, and self-regulation, which are crucial to being a sensitive, intelligent and independent person.
Playing with parents adds another dynamic: it is key to building a trusting relationship between parent and child.
‘Play is not frivolous,’ the authors write in the report. ‘[I]t enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.’
It is hardly the first time the board has rallied for fun.
In 2007, the AAP published guidelines that broke down how essential playtime is.
Since then, even more evidence has emerged, particularly showing how it can improve parent-child relationships, and the profound effect is has on helping children to become open-minded and ambitious.
We now know, for example, that playtime literally helps children to develop their broader life goals, and to feel motivated to achieve them.
Merely publishing a report on these findings is not enough, though: the AAP say their demand for prescribed playtime may be the one thing that ensures kids’ free time is protected.
Parents, schools, and child carers are hounded with rules and advice from all angles. There are tips for how to make your child healthier, stronger, smarter, safer, a leader, a giver, an artist – and the more of those life-enhancing activities are incorporated into a child’s life, the less time they have to play for the sake of playing.
Writing down a prescription, they say, will at least impact upon parents the importance of this seemingly frivolous activity.
‘At a time when early childhood programs are pressured to add more didactic components and less playful learning, pediatricians can play an important role in emphasizing the role of a balanced curriculum that includes the importance of playful learning for the promotion of healthy child development,’ they write.