Some food for thought from social worker and psychotherapist Katie Hurley in Psychology Today. While we support the recognition of the essential nature of play, should it need to be scheduled on prescription? Undoubtedly, it’s an interesting development and brings this issue to the forefront, which is progress. Perhaps shifts like these will go some way to allowing play to be a natural state enjoyed by all.
Play might seem like something kids (of all ages) do to pass the time and have a little fun, but play has benefits that reach beyond smiles and laughter. Play is actually important work, and children learn, grow, and thrive through the context of play.
I’ve been “prescribing” play for almost twenty years in my work with children, adolescents (yes, even teens need to “play”), and families. Sadly, childhood and adolescence continue to experience an alarming and unhealthy trend: Unstructured play and downtime are consistently replaced with adult-directed activities, packed (and overwhelming) schedules, and increased screen time to cope with the stress that inevitably results from over-scheduling. As a result, kids are stressed, anxious, and even depressed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new clinical report titled, “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” is a call to action to educate families about the healing and protective powers of play. The report recommends that all pediatricians tell children (and their parents) that playing with parents and other children plays a critical role in healthy development, building essential life and social skills, and reducing stress.