Most people would say that play or recess is an essential part of childhood. Romping around the house, building imaginary worlds, and exploring the outdoors are all elements of play that most adults remember from their childhoods. But for an increasing number of children, play just is not taking place, and the consequences for child development may be severe.
“Play has largely disappeared,” says a women, co-founder of the Alliance for Childhood, an organization that promotes healthy child development and learning. “It is pretty shocking how little time children spend their own child-initiated play.” By “play,” she says, we are not talking about organized sports or video gaming. What she is saying is thinking about play as the child themselves, initiate and direct. What American children really need for healthy development is more time for old-fashioned play. But they are simply not getting enough of it, child-initiated play can develop social skills, problem-solving, creative thinking, self-awareness and confidence, as well as providing an opportunity for healthy exercise. So whats stopping the kids from getting what they need?
An increasing pressure for children to achieve and accomplish things at even younger ages, and according to adult standards. A consequence of this is a lack of free time that results from an abundance of scheduled activities, such as music classes, sports practice, and academic tutoring sessions. Another major player is “stranger danger”; the perception by some parents are that the world is a dangerous place where children are best kept indoors. Perhaps that biggest obstacle to play today is the increasing prevalence of electronic media in children's lives. Screen time takes up an average of 4-6 hours a day for children, leaving precious little time or motivation for play.
What should a family do? Make outdoors a must, at least a short walk everyday. Do not overschedule them with adult-directed activities,...