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Ridgeview News > Posts > Celebrating Play
January 31
Celebrating Play
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On February 3rd, families and schools around the world are celebrating Global Play Day.  Initiated by Psychologist Peter Gray, Global Play Day encourages sustained, unstructured play for kids.  Dr. Gray explains that the average child’s free time has changed significantly in the past 25 years. 

Notably, children today spend less time outdoors and what time they do spend outdoors is often part of an organized sport activity.  Other activities taking up our children’s time include structured music, art, and dance lessons. Electronic entertainment also takes up a large proportion of our children’s time each day.  While all these activities can be fulfilling and fun for kids, they reduce the time available for unstructured play.

Unstructured play, without direct adult supervision, can take place in many environments.  The outdoors, in particular, provide many opportunities for play that support imagination and exploration of the environment.  You do not need to look further than the Ridgeview school playground to see examples of this.  Sticks, dirt, leaves, rocks and water provide endless enjoyment for kids of all ages.  Outdoor play affords kids opportunities to experiment with the environment learning from their own mistakes and experiences. 

Unfortunately, many parents, in their concern to give their child every advantage and prepare them as early as possible for higher education register their children for organized lessons in literacy or numeracy acquisition, language study, or sport rather than encouraging free play.

Much has been written on the importance of free play in the healthy development of the child.  Free play promotes intellectual and cognitive growth, emotional intelligence, and benefits social interactions.  Play involves problem solving and promotes executive functioning allowing children to plan, organize, sequence, and make decisions.  Social and emotional intelligence strengthen through peer interactions and physical movement that take place during play.  For example, children must work together to decide which game to play, what the rules of play are, and learn how to navigate the many variations of their games as they unfold. Children learn understand varying perspectives of the game.  Through this ‘work’ children learn the social qualities of play:  empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation and flexibility.  Emotional development and physical health are also nurtured when children are engaged in active play.  The correlations between play and learning are well documented.  In fact, unstructured or free play IS learning.

So, how can you incorporate more time for play in your child’s day? 

Family physician Avril Swan, frequent blogger at Whole Family Medicine provides the following suggestions:


Consider the number of extra-curricular activities. 

There is no magic right or wrong number of extras, but if you or your child aren’t taking joy in the activities or if the activities are eating all of your free time, drop one or some.

 

Change your mind set. 

Successful adults are programmed to be productive. Children are not small adults. Their play is their work and is their productive activity.

Let your child go a little outside your comfort zone. 

Consider that a child taking calculated risks  in natural environments may learn and improve their judgment. There is no teacher greater than experience. Learning how to climb a rock or a tree now might decrease hazardous behavior later in life by teaching limits.

Practice letting your child be bored. 

As you might remember from your childhood, we don’t need to have every moment scheduled, and, in fact, some of the best creativity comes from being bored.

 

Play is one of the main ways children learn.  While many children have a natural ability to play, others may need to ‘learn’ how to play well.  It is very important that children play with their peers and are given opportunities and extended periods of time each day for unstructured play.

 

So, this Wednesday, on February 3rd, please join Ridgeview staff in celebrating Global Play Day and encouraging sustained, unstructured daily play for all kids.  

 

 

 
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