Growing movement calls for more play
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 17, 2011 13:03
While the current generation of kids has the benefit of growing up with iPods, video games, and organized sports leagues, in some ways they lack the unregulated, free play that was the source of entertainment for nearly every generation prior.
While current college students may recall childhood games of "Let's pretend", "Mary Mack," and "house," today's children no longer have such opportunities to engage in imaginative play. Instead, parents tend to usher kids from soccer games to karate lessons to piano practices, and many children have much of their free time organized and scheduled by adults.
In addition, some parents' concern about the safety issues of leaving their children alone outside has contributed to the lack of unsupervised play. Also, only 20 percent of children nationwide live within walking distance (a half-mile) of a park or playground, according to the Centers for Disease Control. All of this has contributed to the fact that children now spend 7 hours and 38 minutes a day on average in front of a screen instead of playing outside, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year.
However, a recent New York Times article illustrated how a growing movement to restore children's free play is gaining momentum. A coalition called Play for Tomorrow has staged events such as a giant play date in Central Park, called the Ultimate Block Party. It featured games such as I Spy, Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, blocks, and puzzles. The National Science Foundation advised organizers and talked to parents about the science and the educational value behind each of the activities. More than 50,000 participants showed up.
The act of play has a myriad of benefits for young children. While play can provide a break and stress relief from hectic days, it also serves as a mechanism for kids to learn about social interaction and how to compromise and work together. Also, play can be educational and increase the interaction kids have with their structural environment.
The key benefit from imaginative play is that it allows children to creatively come up with ways to solve problems on their own without having adults dictate what to do and how to do it. Supporters of the free play movement believe adults need to understand that play can be fundamental in children's development and in their process of learning how to collaborate with others.