The summer is just about over, and like many parents, you might be trying to decide whether to sign your young children up for music lessons or sports experiences or academic enrichment classes starting in the fall. A recent report, however, might make you decide to save your money.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) released a policy statement on Monday explaining that there are so many structured activities and so much screen time in some young children’s lives that doctors may need to start handing out prescriptions for free play.
The statement, “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children,” is described in an easy-to-read article in this week’s New York Times Science section. The write-up explains that it’s those long hours of free play that allow young children to build the kinds of skills that help their developing brains in both “structure and function.” When children play, the article explains, they can develop lots of skills: including self-regulation (e.g., stopping themselves from knocking down someone else’s block tower) and social awareness skills (e.g., negotiating to share a favorite toy with a friend). Experiences with free play, when simply supported by nearby adults but not driven by them, also help develop children’s creativity and ingenuity, as well as their language skills and other critical skills for school and life success.
Dr. Benard Dreyer, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, makes clear that “play is the most important part of childhood.” Indeed, medical professionals worry that children spend so much time in front of screens or in structured activities that it might be time to use the power of the prescription pad to encourage more free play for each child.
For us at Abound, it’s affirming to hear the well-respected leaders in children’s health call for the same sorts of interactions and activities that we are all about — and that the science of reading instruction supports: that’s what makes sense for kids’ development.