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Bringing Back the Lost Art of Play

Janie Osborne

A growing movement to restore play in children’s lives is afoot, spreading from schools to homes across the U.S. A recent New York Times article detailed the expansion of efforts to incorporate more play into children’s lives, in an effort to improve children’s physical and mental health:

“Too little playtime may seem to rank far down on the list of society’s worries, but the scientists, psychologists, educators and others who are part of the play movement say that most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play.”

Although the movement has largely been focused on restoring recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums because of the educational value of play, parents are now being included in the movement, encouraging them to change their attitudes toward scheduling, structure, and mess at home.

It seems almost silly that we need to add more play to children’s lives, as we generally associate childhood with play—but yet, as recess gets cut in schools, and children get ever increasing amounts of screen time, both in school and at home, children are indeed playing quite a bit less (and, no, playing in this context does not include video games or educational dolls that sing the ABCs).

I’ll ‘fess up to too much screen time at our house, especially during the cold winter months, and I’ll also cop to being a bit leery of the mess that generally comes along with children’s play (and I’m also married to a neat freak). But I love that part of this movement to restore play is teaching children themselves how to play (and play with each other—not rely on their parents to always get involved). So, one of my parenting resolutions for this year is to cut back on the kids’ screen time and try to relax about the mess factor. I think this snowy weekend ahead will bring some snowmen-making and fort-building at our house.

And if you’re looking for some ideas to get playtime moving in your house, check out:

Parents, do you think your kids get enough playtime? Do they play by themselves, or do you always need to be a part of projects and games?

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