By Lisa Picha, School Psychologist – Lower School
Yes, energy is in the air, but opportunities to play can help. As we begin to turn our attention to longer days and spring, it seems like a great time to talk about play. While it is important to be vigilant in our work and studies, research reminds us of the importance of building play into our routines, especially for our young people.
Play is essential to our development. It contributes to cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Global School Play Day was on February 4, but it’s not too late to celebrate by starting or continuing a healthy play routine. To provide some context, I encourage all of you to listen to The decline of play | Peter Gray | TEDxNavesink when you can. It provides an excellent context to understand the need for play to remain part of our education.
Until then, I want to underscore that Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada says, “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain, and without play those neurons aren’t changed.” It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which plays a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis says. So play, he adds, is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.
These findings aren’t just for our young children. The positive effects of play and physical activity extend to young teens and high school students. The CDC has recommended that 6-17 year olds have at least 60 minutes of daily activity. Movement can include short breaks of 5-20 minutes, movement-based learning techniques, short exercise breaks and extra-curricular activities. Benefits can include developing a stronger sense of self, fostering educational aspirations, maintaining interest/attention and better task completion.
Some wonderful articles include:
Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits Of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten Rona Richter/MindShift
How Free Play Can Define Kids’ Success Free, unstructured play is crucial for children to build the skills they’ll need to be happy, productive adults.
Harnessing Children’s Natural Ways Of Learning At a school where free play and exploration are encouraged, children can educate themselves under the right conditions.
When you can, check out some of the research on play. Until then, model the importance of hard work and underscore the importance of academics, but commit to providing you and our young people an opportunity to play.