Last week I summarized and commented on an research study about the how Kindergarten classrooms have changed since the 90’s, specifically, that academic demands have increased and opportunities for play have decreased. You can read that blog post here. But it’s not just in school that children’s daily activities have changed. A study published in 2004 found that children spend half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago and, on average, children ages 6-16 have 6 and a half hours of screen time a day.
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This is extremely concerning. All types of play – gross motor play, pretend play, constructive play, etc – are critical vehicles for cognitive, social, emotional, fine and gross motor, sensory, and communicative development.
Children learn how to interact through play. When building a fort with their friends, or playing with a pretend kitchen, children learn how to collaborate, negotiate, think critically, compromise, and relate to others.
Play is an excellent opportunity for language development. Children learn faster and retain information better when they are engaged and motivated by an activity. A child is going to learn colors and shapes faster if their teacher or parent is talking to them while playing with blocks than if they practiced with flashcards.
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Pretend play requires children to use symbolic thinking – the same underlying process as language. Game play encourages social skills such as collaboration and turn-taking and helps develop sportsmanship. Unstructured, spontaneous play allows children to develop the strength and coordination they need to be successful with daily gross motor tasks. Each of these types of play fosters important skills which build the foundation for success, both inside the classroom and in our daily lives.
Our children need ample time to engage in play – both at home and at school. Who’s with me? Let’s bring back playtime in Kindergarten!
If you’d like to advocate for more playtime in your school, there are many excellent resources on the importance of play. Here are some of my favorites:
- The Inspired Treehouse: a great website and blog created by Occupational Therapists covering topics like fine and gross motor skills, sensory exploration, and play.
- The Hanen Centre: A non-profit with excellent resources on language development, social skills, and play.
- The National Wildlife Federation: The NWF is dedicated to getting youth outside. They have an excellent handout on the health benefits of playing outside.
Thanks for reading!