Play is so important in child development that it’s been recognized by the United High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent report explains why children are playing less and the impact is on today’s kids. Over the last few decades, the amount of play time has been reduced both at school and at home, according to the AAP. And a child’s playtime at home has been negatively affected by the hectic lifestyles of today’s working parents and the increased focus that parents often put on the academic end of their children’s education. But this all comes at a cost. “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imaginations, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength,” according to the AAP report. It allows children to explore the world, practice adult roles, and gain confidence. And it improves children’s social skills as well, by helping them to “learn how to work in groups, share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.”
The key to helping your child reach his potential–without the added anxiety–is to find the right balance between work and play. Here are some recommendations from the AAP:
1. Give kids ample, unscheduled time to be creative, to reflect, and to decompress.
2. Encourage your children to engage in active play (running around or playing tag) in lieu of passive entertainment (video games or television).
3. Buy your children “true” toys, such as blocks or dolls, that encourage imagination and creativity.
4. Spend unscheduled, unstructured time together with your kids.
5. Ask your child regularly whether he feels overly tired, burned out, or overscheduled.
6. Allow your children to have a say in which extracurricular activities they are involved in.
7. Get involved in your child’s school and take an active role in ensuring that all kids are getting ample free time.
From: The Importance of Play by Karin Bilch from Parents Magazine