Are Your Children Playing Enough, And Can We Do Anything About It?

Posted: January 24, 2015

Are children playing enough today? Play is fun, but childhood play has many other ‘serious’ benefits, and children today are missing out on those.

I recently read some advice on bringing up children. It said we need to bring them up like pet dogs – feed them, water them and get them to play outside every day!

I am sure each one of us would have played a lot outdoors as a child. Hopscotch, hide and seek, seven stones, skipping a rope, Gilli danda, rolling the marbles…..or the simple running and catching!

But…are your children playing enough?

In the year 1966, a mass murder shocked the city of Texas. One morning, Charles Whitman walked up to the tower overlooking his University campus and for the next 3 hours, he simply shot from the tower killing 17 and wounding 41 students! Dr. Stuart Brown, a leading psychiatrist, worked on his case and many other similar homicidal cases. The research study reveals an extremely sober and tragic life,with no friends or play in the lives of such mass murderers.

Dr. Stuart Brown later founded the National Institute of Play, in California. He says there is active presence of play in childhood and as an adult in the lives of the very successful people but he also identifies the extremely negative consequences of a play-deprived life.

A recent research reveals that 6 out of 10 children in Asia, play alone and 45% of the children do not play every day. I don’t see any of our childhood games on the streets or parks now. Instead, I see children going from one extra curricular class to another, children glued to the TV or addicted to the other gadgets. What amuses me is that most of the time, children and parents don’t know what to do with each other!

So, why don’t children play today?

The top 3 reasons:

  • There is no backyard, front yard or side yard…only buildings! Where will the kids run out to play here?
  • There is no urge to play. Today, everything is indoors. Children find it easier to switch on the TV/Computer/ Ipad/Iphone. Before even learning to hold a pencil, a toddler knows to handle a mobile phone!
  • Lastly and very importantly, it is to do with parents. We have become parents, alright, but there is less of parenting. TV has become a surrogate parent!

Busy parents do not find time to supervise their children playing outside or we are concerned with the safety of our children playing outside our houses. Parents are more self-conscious and competitive than in the past, pushing their kids to excel and free play loses out.

According to the writer and play therapist, Brian Sutton- Smith, “The opposite of play is not work. It is depression”.  How profoundly does free play help a child?

  • The outdoors is the best place a child masters the physical skills – running, leaping, jumping. This helps in burning calories, which prevents obesity – which is one of the biggest health risks today.
  • Outdoors, children are more likely to invent games. As they do so, they invent rules. They learn about decision making, team building, leadership, negotiation, and co-operation. All these prepare them for adulthood.
  • Children start to appreciate nature. While outside, they have many wonderful things to see, to hear, to smell and even taste!
  • Play enhances imagination and creativity.

Children are happier, healthier and smarter when they play outdoors. They grow up to be such adults too.

Dr. Stuart Brown’s findings are shocking but it makes us understand the importance of outdoor play for children. Today, there are reasons why playtime is almost going extinct. However tough our schedules are, we need to ensure that there is more sunshine and less screen time for our children.

There are simple do-able steps, which we can do for our children, to create outdoor play times.

  • Let us attack all the enemies of play – all the electronic gadgets, TV, and video games.Experts say that the permitted amount of TV for children is 30 minutes per day.
  • Teach them at least one game per week, which was your childhood favourite. Choose any bit of outdoor space for at least 20-25 minutes and let us also play with them!
  • Do a group play date with other families – take turns to bring a group of kids to the park, sports field or a green space.
  • If there is absolutely no scope of any outdoor play area, simply take them for a walk. It is a great way to talk to them, ask them about their day, share yours, and tell them snippets from your childhood. We hardly get time to “talk” to our children; this walk will be a wonderful chance.

The world will not be saved by high test scores or by the gold medals. What is needed is the focus on the kinds of human beings that we are bringing up.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

Image of girl playing via Shutterstock

 

Archana was raised in Chennai and lives in Dubai.She was a banking professional for

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Comments

4 Comments


  1. It’s sad how times have changed and children don’t have the opportunity to play outdoors enough. Even if an individual child is interested to play, there are no play companions for him or her. The tips shared here are practical and can be incorporated in our child’s daily routine.

  2. Archana Shivmani Rao -

    Very true,Diana. I have tried walking, playing my favourite childhood games with my daughter and it helps immensely !

  3. Pingback: Letting Children Enjoy (And Learn) The Art Of Free Will – dianajanetjoseph

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