Urgent! Children Must Be Allowed To Play!

Could it be that parents have to teach their children how to play? Are kids in the U.S. becoming better at picking up an iPhone and scrolling through the apps than they are at playing outside?

Kids Spend Almost 8 Hours A Day In Front Of A Screen

Recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, revealing that 8 – 18-year-olds spend on average 7 hours 38 minutes each day in front of a screen, seems to indicate that this might be true.

In light of this, there is a growing movement around the country to, believe or not, “bring back” children’s play.

Children Have A Right To Play

This was documented in The New York Times recently:

To try to reach more parents, a coalition called Play for Tomorrow this fall staged what amounted to a giant play date in Central Park. The event, known as the Ultimate Block Party, featured games like I Spy, mounds of Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, building blocks, puzzles and more. The National Science Foundation was closely involved, advising organizers — and emphasizing to parents — the science and the educational value behind each of the carefully chosen activities. Organizers were hoping to attract 10,000 people to the event. They got more than 50,000.

“We were overwhelmed,” said Roberta Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Delaware and a founder of the event along with Dr. Hirsh-Pasek. They are now working with other cities — Toronto, Atlanta, Baltimore and Houston, among them — to stage similar events, along with making the Central Park gathering an annual one.

The Growing Movement To Restore Children’s Play

Around the country, the movement to restore children’s play is taking off. KaBOOM! is one group that is leading the way. Their mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, they envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

So far they have built 1,900 playgrounds across the country, most in low-income communities, and last September they helped organize “Play Days” in 1,600 neighborhoods.

Why Is Play So Important?

Most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play, according to many experts.

Unstructured play, where children have to figure out everything for themselves, is especially important. Children learn to solve problems, think creatively and work as a team, perhaps building a teepee or digging together in a sandbox.

40% Of Public Schools Have No Recess

A recent study of 11,000 children ages eight and nine by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that after only 15 minutes of recess, the students performed better in class. Much research has documented that kids do better socially, physically and academically with just a short time to play. (And yet, 40% of U.S. public schools have no recess at all.)

Play brings laughter and joy. And the lack of play can bring childhood obesity, disorders associated with ADHD, fragmented communities, behavioral problems, and a negative effect on cognitive and creative development.

Memo to all adults and children: Let’s get outside and play!

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50 comments

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago

thanks for telling the world

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago

thanks

Jami Winn
Jami Winn5 years ago

I remember being ten i had a coloring book a tomagachi and a stuffed horse. :( Now my six year old nephew can beat me at just about ever video game for the Wii ever created and i'm now only 15

Henri P.
Henri P.5 years ago

Playstations,nintendos,increasing amount of tv-watching,internet...when i was kid we spend almost all the time out of the house and played with other kids.Now i read on alarning article from local news paper:speech terapist was saying that she has young children as customers who spoke like tv -characters...

Loo Samantha
Loo sam5 years ago

all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

nat a.
nat Anne5 years ago

Wow surprising 40% of schools do not have recess, what happened?

Silvia H.
Silvia H.5 years ago

It seems to me that when children reach a certain age (5 and 6) they never go to the playground again. I have a 7 and a 5 year old and it so hard sometimes to find kids their age to play with, unless you arrange a play date. And if we find kids their age, some of these kids do not know how to play with other kids.

Marianne C.
Marianne C.5 years ago

You BET kids need to play! ...and by play, I mean in a sandbox, on a hillside, in a back yard, with tinker toys, Lincoln logs, Legos, building blocks, an erector set, on a swing set, with a Junior Builder tool set, a firetruck, a dump truck, dolls, a dollhouse, a farm set. You get my drift.

Kids need to make mud pies and sand castles, jump in puddles, run through the sprinklers, jump over hedges, climb trees, play kick the can and stick ball. Kids need to ride bikes and roller skate and run like the wind. They need to make up their own games, learn to figure out their own problems and solutions, learn to be honorable competitors, gracious winners, and ethical losers. They need to understand team spirit and team dynamics. They need to learn that a cheater never really wins, and that all the world scorns the cheat, anyway.

I just don't believe you get all that sitting around with a joystick in your hand.

So go forth and play. Play your very hardest. Just don't touch my dollhouse -- that's MY toy.

Joy Mcronald
Joy McRonald5 years ago

Children have to play, it helps them to get along with one another, stop all the computer and x-box every day, get out in the air, run about, have fun...

John B.
John B.5 years ago

I've commented on this before - children need to get back to playing and interacting with others. This sitting in front of a screen all day is a wasted childhood. While it is a nice thing to have your child equipped with a cell phone so if they are ever in need they can contact you or you can contact them it is not a new sort of right that children have.
I saw a girl texting away like crazy at a Starbucks and I asked her what she was doing and she was rather startled that she was being asked a question by a real live person and then there seemed to be some fear from being spoken to by a stranger. It took her about a minute and a half to tell me that she was texting her friends and I simply got into communication with her asking what she was texting and how come she didn't go over and talk to her friends and she seemed startled again like it was a new thought. I spoke to her for a couple of more minutes and then thanked her and went back to some work. The main reason for returning to work is that it was excruciating waiting for her to answer a simple question. I didn't even ask her what her name was as it seemed to be too deep a question.
Kids in North America are glued to phones, blackberries, game boys, or anything else which is there. Parents need to wean their kids off these devices and get them to go outside and run or walk or play stick ball or jump rope or anything besides sit and be a spectator to life passing them by.