AAP Recommends More Playtime for Kids
> 10/9/2006 12:38:34 PM

It might seem like a contradictory sentiment in a culture of competitive, overstimulated children, but on Monday the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report aimed at stressing the importance of unstructured play in a child's cognitive, social, and emotional development. According to the report, time devoted to free play results in healthier children, and most young Americans could benefit from a little more of it.

Many kids lack sufficient opportunities for play due to socioeconomic and cultural factors. Those living in dense urban neighborhoods, for example, have fewer chances to experience the natural world, unable to explore a backyard or join other kids at the park. Families with limited financial resources more often resort to placing children in front of a television or computer screen, a practice long suspected of interfering with essential aspects of childhoodd like a focus on physical fitness and emotional development. While acknowledging the weighted importance of such issues, the AAP's extensive report, purportedly the first in a series, focuses on other sources of recreational deprivation for kids who have access to the appropriate resources: hectic, overscheduled lifestyles and academic pressures that arise at progressively earlier periods in a child's life.

Many parents feel the need to offer their children every opportunity for enrichment, and researchers stress the importance of certain activities in moderation: group sports and adult-organized activities, for example, are known to foster social skills and a capacity  for cooperative play. Early academic programs also help prepare many kids for the considerable challenges awaiting them in the scholastic and professional worlds. Still, the report's authors argue, such competing pressures and obligations can elminate a child's chances to simply be a child, using his or her imagination and experiencing the outside world without excessively restrictive oversight. Perhaps the most important element of free play is the fact that it allows children to make independent decisions at their own pace, investing themselves in what they enjoy and discovering likes and dislikes that will help inform the rest of their lives. Of course, adult oversight is also an essential part of play, as a desire for physical and creative freedom cannot overwhelm a child's need for safety.

Enrichment programs for children comprise a multi-million dollar industry whose influence stretches across our social spectrum, but parents worried about raising healthy, emotionally stable children may find that unstructured and lightly supervised play can help bring them closer to a child by allowing for a shared experience and a greater familiarity with the child's perspective. Playing with traditionally active toys, like blocks or puzzles rather than videos, contributes to a child's problem solving abilities and creative capactities. In school, free time that allows for peer interaction is a key element of each kid's development. In recent efforts to improve academic standing, many schools have opted to reduce the amount of time and resources devoted to non-academic concerns. Some schools, beginning in kindergarten, have eliminated recess altogether. These changes often come at the expense of the students affected, as repeated studies reinforce the idea that a socially well-rounded child will perform better in class.

Many children benefit from highly scheduled lifestyles, and completely unsupervised time can lead to other problems, but the general consensus of the extensive AAP report is that, due to a multiplicity of social and financial factors, today's kids have considerably less time to play than those of previous generations, and this fact contributes to their collective stresses and related health problems, from anxiety and depression to obesity and general passivity. It's hard to argue with such a common-sense summary. Educators and caregivers alike would be well advised to make efforts toward counteracting the trend.


By all means take this kids out and have fun it beats having this sit around watching THE SIMPSONS all day long
Posted by: seasick seagull 10/16/2006 11:07:26 AM

at least a decent web site thank you
Posted by: Jess 10/28/2006 7:21:25 AM

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