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!