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The Power of Play
What are your memories of playing as a child? Some of us will remember hide and seek, house, tag,and red rover red rover. Others may recall arguing about rules in kick ball or stick ball or taking turns at jump rope, or creating imaginary worlds with our dolls, building forts, putting on plays, or dressing-up. From long summer days to a few precious after school hours, kid-organized play may have filled much of your free time. But what about your children? Are their opportunities for play the same as yours were? Most likely not.
Play time is in short supply for children these days and the lifelong consequences for developing children can be more serious than many people realize.
The Decline of Play
An article in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Play details not only how much children's play time has declined, but how this lack of play affects emotional development, leading to the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self control.
"Since about 1955... children’s free play has been continually declining, at least partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities," says the author Peter Gray, PhD, Professor of Psychology (emeritus ) at Boston College. Gray defines "free play" as play a child undertakes him- or her-self and which is self-directed and an end in itself, rather than part of some organized activity.
Gray describes this kind of unstructured, freely- chosen play as a testing ground for life. It provides critical life experiences without which young children cannot develop into confident and competent adults. Gray's article is meant to serve as a wake-up call regarding the effects of lost play, and he believes that lack of childhood free play time is a huge loss that must be addressed for the sake of our children and society.