Friday, December 14, 2012

Give your Children A Free Gift

In “Make Time for Free Time”, retrieved from, the writer describes research supporting unstructured playtime for children.
Play is described as “equally important as other basic drives of sleep, rest and food”.  The article notes that all young mammals play.  Research is showing the many ways play helps the brain develop.  Benefits also include helping develop skills such as social skills/getting along with others, problem solving, making decisions, and thinking skills.

Some more from the article:
“A clinical report in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cited play as the right of every child, as defined by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The report underlined the importance of play for normal child development….”
…..”Ironically, children have more toys than ever before. But the toys children enjoy today are quite different than in pre-television days. Until the 1950s, toys were simple – balls, baby dolls, teddy bears, chalk. Simpler toys required creative input from the child – imagination. Since toy companies began marketing directly to children in about 1955, toys come fully scripted – dolls with well known “personalities”, hand-held computers that lead the child through mazes developed in a lab, and educational games with right and wrong answers.”

Read more.......

…“The AAP urges its members to educate parents about the benefits of play and to make time for it. They advise that pediatricians should encourage parents to:
  • Allow a large proportion of play to be child-driven, rather than adult-directed.
  • Share unscheduled, spontaneous time with their children every day.
  • Encourage the use of “true toys” such as blocks and dolls
  • Avoid spending large chunks of time shuttling children between numerous activities.”

For the whole article, check out

While the holiday break gives us a chance to play, some articles indicate that play is just as helpful while school is in session. “Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play.” (  As a parent, I wish I had allowed for more breaks during homework time, instead of being so serious and focusing on getting it done.  Things may have ultimately gone more smoothly.

The National Institute of Play (, has categorized different levels of play.  These categories may help us come up with ideas in fostering play:
Body play and movement:  skipping around, dancing, climbing a tree, experimenting with a hula hoop
Object play:  items you can explore and manipulate-toys and other objects:  rocks, other household items; duct tape is a great thing to play around with
Social Play: interacting with others in play situations, from playing alongside someone else to rough and tumble wrestling around
Imaginative and pretend play:  pretending to be an animal or a chef in a kitchen
Storytelling-Narrative play: reading, puppets
Creative play:  make a house out of a box
See here for another way to categorize play.   

It is truly amazing to see what creative activities children can come up with in their free playtime.  Enjoy your play time this holiday season!

For more research, see this article

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