Did you know children laugh on average 400 times a day whilst adults 25 times? Why do we stop laughing? And why do we stop playing? According to babble.com it’s The End of play. The New York Times ran a rather alarming article focusing on the lost culture of childhood. Nursery rhymes and traditional outdoor play has been replaced by TV, video games and the internet, with children age 8 to 18 spending about 7 1/2 hours a day using electronic media. Instead of play children are increasingly passive consumers of entertainment. David Elkind, a professor at Tufts University, has found that less play increases bullying and it’s clearly contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.
But what makes play so important? According to education.com, play is vital for the child development. In play anything can happen; Imagining and living out one’s mental images in play are ways of testing things that the child will later encounter in a larger scale in real life. But they are also ways of developing the link between emotion and thought, emotion and language. And a way to connect with yourself, mature and feel content and happy.
“Human children play more and longer than any other known animal species. There’s also an interesting link between how human children play and their rich interior worlds, their self-consciousness. We are in fact the only animals that carry on role-play, the only ones who can pretend to be someone else…”
Professor Peter Gärdenfors, a Swedish philosopher to
Top tips to how to encourage play
1. Switch off
Turn of the TV and confiscate all tablet and devices. You will get an immediate negative response, but this is a necessary step to achieve play.
2. Allow downtime
Limit your children’s extra-curricular activities, don’t fill up the diary with playdates and social activities. Allow the children to be at home, bored.
Show an interest in their play by occasionally ask what they are building, making or what’s happening in the play. Praise the play without interfering. We know it’s tempting to make suggestions and wanting to jump into the imaginative world… but witheld yourself. Other than providing the blanket for the tent, stay clear.
4. Clear the premises, prepare for play
Make sure the children’s bedroom is not overflowing with toys and clutter. Secure sufficient storage to keep it tidy and inviting. One tip is to rotate toys, another is having regular clear outs and donate unwanted toys to charity.
We have two girls, age 11 and 8, both still playing. They can’t wait to emerse in the imaginative world after school. Creative Lego, duplu and miniature figures from the Sylvanians Family are still in frequent use. Dressing up and dolls not so much any longer. We also try to use the outdoors, the garden and the nearby parks to allow free movement and outdoor fun. In fact we did write an article about The Importance of Free Play for VUP Baby a year ago. How old are your children and what do they play with? And do you think imaginative play is important?