Children Need to Play, Academic Achievement Not Enough: Study

Science shows play is not frivolous but core to children’s healthy development

BE2C2 Report – The dictum ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ competed with ‘Parho ge likho ge to bano go nawab, khelo ge koodo ge to ho ge kharab’. This trend continued for several decades throwing up a mixed bag of societal successes and failures.

Plenty of people argue this trend bodes poorly both for childhood and for kids’ future employment.

“Play is not frivolous,” says a study. The new policy report suggests we’d do better to children’s healthy development if we can set aside big blocks of time devoted to nothing but free play. The report warns that parents and schools are focusing on academic achievement at the expense of play.

“Play is not frivolous,” the report says. Rather, research shows that play helps children develop language and executive functioning skills, learn to negotiate with others and manage stress, and figure out how to pursue their goals while ignoring distractions, among other things.

The report recommends that pediatricians attempt to turn the tide by prescribing play during well visits for children.

“At a time when early childhood programs are pressured to add more didactic components and less playful learning, pediatricians can play an important role in emphasizing the role of a balanced curriculum that includes the importance of playful learning for the promotion of healthy child development.”

At Davos, the uber-elite gathering of global power brokers, AI experts and global CEOs argued that free play encourages kids to develop agency, collaboration and creativity—just the skills that workers will need to maintain an edge over the robots. And psychologists have said the consequences of a lack of play could be dire, including rising rates of mental health problems in teens. That’s why the report says it’s time to collectively reboot our thinking about play, understanding it not as a trivial, expendable pastime but as an essential activity that science shows is core to children’s healthy development.

(BE2C2   Report is a data journalism initiative of Irshad Salim Associates, a New Jersey, USA, based consulting firm in association with BE2C2 in Pakistan)

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