Playtime is more than just fun and games
By: Ray Strunk, CASA: A Voice for Children, Inc. Program Assistant
I remember spending much of my time in elementary school with my eyes glued to the clock in anticipation of recess. Recess felt like a much-needed break from the rigors of public school learning; a time of running around, interacting with peers and, most importantly to me, playing games. I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was learning just as much during the "learning breaks" as I was in class.
Aside from the obvious benefit of exercise, playtime serves as a basis of social development. Through participating in games or activities, children are given an opportunity to learn how to effectively interact and communicate with others in ways that they wouldn’t normally experience through everyday schoolwork. It is important to establish these skills young as they follow the child through their teenage years and even into adult life.
Additionally, playtime enhances a child’s sensory development. Through play, the child utilizes each of his/her five senses which is vital to brain development. When a child uses multiple senses during a playtime activity, he/she learns more and better retains what was learned.
Fred Rogers, beloved television personality and host of every child’s favorite show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood understood the importance of play.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning,” he explained. “Play is really the work of childhood.”
Unfortunately, children today are experiencing a drastic decline in important playtime. Children are trading the outdoor games and activities for phones and video games. Research from nonprofit child advocacy group, Alliance for Childhood, found that, “Compared to the 1970s, children now spend 50 percent less time in outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless."
While spending a moderate amount of time playing video games and using other electronic devices isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it becomes harmful when it replaces traditional playtime and the social interaction and sensory stimulation that comes along with it.
Parents and mentors should play a leading role in encouraging children to put down the phone and pick up the lasting benefits of playtime.
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