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How Important is Playtime?

Posted by on Apr. 4, 2012 at 4:55 AM
  • 10 Replies

How Important is Playtime?

Last night my husband and I attended the lecture “Playful Learning” by Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a child psychologist and author of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. This lecture interested me because I have read of the importance of playtime for children and, but I specifically wanted to know:

  • Should children’s play be free or planned?
  • For what age is play especially important?

Personally, I have observed a growing trend away from playtime for children. More and more media has become more and more consuming, and more and more children are in more and more controlled environments.

What about allowing a child to run outside creating an imaginary castle out of a cluster of trees? What about encouraging a child to tie a cape (aka a towel) to their back and fly through the air as Superman? What about building a city out of blocks or playing freeze tag or having Barbie set Ken straight in their Dream House?

These are the kinds of things kids do when given the opportunity. But it seems these opportunities are being lost. Fewer schools are giving time for simple play.

When my husband and I were still deciding how to educate our children, this was one of the areas that concerned me. Private schools, especially, seem determined to pack as much “education” into children’s waking hours with hours of homework in elementary grades.

In fact, Hirsh-Pasek showed that in 1981 children spent 40% of their time in play. That percentage dropped to 25% in 1997. “In the last 20 years, children have lost eight hours of free play per week,” she said.

Why is this important? Research shows that there is a correlation between play in young children and better skills in reading, writing and math later in life. Play also allows children to learn social skills like emotional control, sharing and empathy.

Both free play and guided play are important. Free play is just that, kids have to figure out how to play creatively themselves. Guided play is also child-initiated but parents or adults are on hand to ask probing questions and make suggestions.

One example that Hirsh-Pasek gave was a study in which children were given three everyday items. One group was told, “This is how these items are used.” Another group was told, “Use them however you want.” And the third group was given the items and asked questions like, “What else could you do with those things?”

Then the groups were given a problem to solve with the items. The first group solved the problem in the most typical way. The participants never thought creatively about what the items could do. They merely recited what they have been told. The next group thought creatively but the results were limited. The third group was the most creative as the participants had been nudged to keep thinking, keep creating and give it one more try.

This kind of activity teaches children to become creative problem solvers. They become the inventors, designers, engineers and creators of the future.

I left the lecture encouraged that my inner compass was on track. Play is important. In fact, it is important for all of us at every age. It is what allows all of us to reason, grow, assimilate, celebrate, explore and just have fun with the world around us.

So the next time your student says, “But mom, I just want play!” That may be exactly what he needs to do.

by on Apr. 4, 2012 at 4:55 AM
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Replies (1-10):
usmom3
by BJ on Apr. 4, 2012 at 12:09 PM

 Play is very important & should be free time not structured time!

gratefulgal
by Member on Apr. 4, 2012 at 2:24 PM

I agree! It seems that there is so much pressure to pack all this "schooling" in that they will miss their childhood. Another homeschooling mom once told me, "you are going to be schooling them for a LONG time. Do the fun stuff now." And she was rght. And you know what? They REMEMBER the stuff they learned while playing!

Amanda

Jinx-Troublex3
by Jinx on Apr. 4, 2012 at 2:37 PM
Both structured and free are important...give kids ideas and let them run with them!
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wanderingwolf
by on Apr. 4, 2012 at 6:39 PM

It's very important in the early years (birth to 3rd grade).   But after third grade you should still make time for play in addition to structured academics. If your child is struggling with something then make it into a game.  Don't pressure them to be 'perfect' and don't think less of them if they don't get it or have a hard time with a certain subject.  Kids learn in different ways.  Use how they learn best and the multiple intelligences theory to connect with and make learning fun with your kids throughou their school years and beyond.  It may be that turning something into a game helps the child learn that aspect of a math problem for example.

kirbymom
by Sonja on Apr. 4, 2012 at 7:18 PM

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

usmom3
by BJ on Apr. 4, 2012 at 7:47 PM
1 mom liked this

 I am with you! Anytime I try to guide them in any kind of play they loss interest. But if I just let them play they can play all day & make up their own games never needing my help.

Quoting kirbymom:

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

 

kirbymom
by Sonja on Apr. 4, 2012 at 7:54 PM

 I thought maybe I was a little wierd. lol  

Quoting usmom3:

 I am with you! Anytime I try to guide them in any kind of play they loss interest. But if I just let them play they can play all day & make up their own games never needing my help.

Quoting kirbymom:

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

 

 

usmom3
by BJ on Apr. 4, 2012 at 8:01 PM
1 mom liked this

 I hate to tell you but I am weird & a bit crazy so you might still be weird & a bit crazy! HAHAHAHAHA

Quoting kirbymom:

 I thought maybe I was a little wierd. lol  

Quoting usmom3:

 I am with you! Anytime I try to guide them in any kind of play they loss interest. But if I just let them play they can play all day & make up their own games never needing my help.

Quoting kirbymom:

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

 

 

 

Pinned Image

kirbymom
by Sonja on Apr. 4, 2012 at 9:16 PM

 BAHAHAHAHAHA ~  You think your funny!!  lol :)

Quoting usmom3:

 I hate to tell you but I am weird & a bit crazy so you might still be weird & a bit crazy! HAHAHAHAHA

Quoting kirbymom:

 I thought maybe I was a little wierd. lol  

Quoting usmom3:

 I am with you! Anytime I try to guide them in any kind of play they loss interest. But if I just let them play they can play all day & make up their own games never needing my help.

Quoting kirbymom:

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

 

 

 

 

usmom3
by BJ on Apr. 4, 2012 at 9:31 PM

 What you don't think I could be a good comedian?????

Quoting kirbymom:

 BAHAHAHAHAHA ~  You think your funny!!  lol :)

Quoting usmom3:

 I hate to tell you but I am weird & a bit crazy so you might still be weird & a bit crazy! HAHAHAHAHA

Quoting kirbymom:

 I thought maybe I was a little wierd. lol  

Quoting usmom3:

 I am with you! Anytime I try to guide them in any kind of play they loss interest. But if I just let them play they can play all day & make up their own games never needing my help.

Quoting kirbymom:

 Okay, this may sound a little silly, but....

How do you plan.. play time? 

When its time to play, I let them play. I think trying to plan everything for them only makes them want to rebel, so I give them a little space to control something without my interference.   Does this make sense to anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

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