A prescription for play?
More broccoli for Junior? Less screen time for little Sara? When it comes to parenting guidance, we trust and rely on pediatricians to give us the information we need to help our children live healthy lives. So parents may be a little surprised to find the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report that urges pediatricians to recommend more play time.
“Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions,” the authors of the report write.
“Play time allows children to develop their creativity and imagination. This has long-term benefits for their education and intelligence and teaches them how to understand their emotions and get along with others,” Dr. Vyas says. “Playing with each other gives kids much needed opportunities to learn how to share and compromise, resolve conflicts and make decisions.”
Faced with increasing pressure to perform well academically, kids have seen less and less playtime inside and outside of school over the years. Increased screen time in front of TVs, computers, tablets and smart phones also contribute to lack of playful learning among children.
To counteract the negative effects of minimal playtime, the report urges pediatricians to promote play between parents and children, going so far as to recommend writing prescriptions for children.
“I absolutely recommend parents carve out time to play with their kids regularly. Even if it’s a short amount of time, we know that the quality rather than quantity of child and parent together time is extremely important in a child’s upbringing,” Dr. Vyas says.
“Creative play time is an easy way to accomplish this, and you really don’t even need toys or games to have fun! However, when children play with their parents, children should be directing most of the activities. Kids need to be allowed to develop their own interests at their own pace. Giving them independence when playing lets them figure out what they like and enjoy it more than if an adult is making all the rules,” she adds.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.