But in a clinical report to the American Academy of Paediatrics, Kenneth R. Ginsburg concluded that "Many of these children are being raised in an increasingly hurried and pressured style that may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play."
Major child rearing agencies, early childhood associations, paediatric groups, government agencies with responsibility for children and families have been raising serious questions about declining spare time, and in particular unstructured playtime for young children. For example, in a recent edition of the Belfast Telegraph a report from 300 teachers, psychologists and children's authors claimed that the erosion of "unstructured, loosely supervised" playtime is dangerously affecting young people's health.
Rather than being a waste of time in an increasingly 'time poor' world, play is vital to children's development. In an interesting article, 'The Play's the thing: Styles of playfulness', Elizabeth Jones has argued that:
In their play, children invent the world for themselves and create a place for themselves in it. They are re-creating their pasts and imagining their futures, while grounding themselves in the reality and fantasy of their lives here-and-now.In his widely cited article Ginsburg concludes that:
- Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.
- Play is important to healthy brain development.
- Through play children at a very early age engage and interact in the
- world around them.
- Play allows children to create and explore a world where they can achieve a sense of mastery.
- Through play children can also conquer their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.
- As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence.
- Undirected play allows children to learn how to work and create with others, to share, to negotiate, and to resolve conflicts.
- When play is allowed to be child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of
- Play is essential for the building of active healthy bodies.
In a future post I'd like to say more about the role of adults in children's play.