In an age where it is very easy to hand children electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones in order to keep them entertained, new guidelines now suggest that children need to get out and play more. However, it’s not just for the physical exercise aspect of playing as it also assists a child’s development.
According to CBS News, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now insisting children have less screen time and more play time.
“Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function,” the report states.
Published this week, the report, led by Michael Yogman, who is the chairman of the AAP committee on psychosocial aspects of child family health, suggests that a shift needs to be made away from academic achievement in order to help children develop correctly.
“At a time when early childhood programs are pressured to add more didactic components and less playful learning, pediatricians can play an important role in emphasizing the role of a balanced curriculum that includes the importance of playful learning for the promotion of healthy child development.”
As Quartz points out, the research now shows that play “helps children develop language and executive functioning skills, learn to negotiate with others and manage stress, and figure out how to pursue their goals while ignoring distractions, among other things.”
The AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now insist that children get at least one hour per day that is purely play-related on top of the recommended minimum of one hour of physical activity per day.
When children play, it allows them to explore the world around them, which leads to them developing stress coping mechanisms. In addition, it can also help children develop risk-taking boundaries at an age where the safety of risk-taking is considered more minimized than when the child is older. Along with this, it will help children develop valuable problem-solving skills. Play also helps children nurture “safe relationships with caregivers, and teaches language, social and emotional skills,” according to CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula.
So, what kind of play is important for children?
According to the study, and further endorsed by Dr. Narula, play time needs to be spontaneous and controlled by the child rather than guided by any adults present.
“It tends to be fun and spontaneous, with no real goals,” Dr. Narula explained. “Play can be play with objects, outdoor play, physical rough-and-tumble play, and then social, dramatic make-believe play.”
It is also recommended that play time for children be extended through into their teenage years for optimum results.