Making Kids Smarter

Making Kids Smarter…Kids In America Have Stopped Playing – and Its Making Costing Them!

Our children are no longer playing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study highlighting the importance of play.  They state that “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth.”  It is so important, as a matter of fact that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a RIGHT for every child!  Wow!  That is incredibly powerful.

Child developmentalists have purported that children learn through imitation and play.  Einstein proposed that play and love are the best motivators for learning.  Play is the language of children.  It is a place where they can order their world and gain control of situations in which they are feeling powerless.  As a child, very few decisions are left up to them which, does not always allow the child to feel as if they have any control over their own lives.  When they play, they are the masters of their destiny and fate.  They can be anything, anyone, eat anything, stay up late or “be the king of all wild things” as Max is in the wonderful story “Where The Wild Things Are” that so encapsulates a child’s fantastical world of play. It is as much of a coping strategy as it is a learning experience.

Yet, our children are not playing.

Many children are robbed of authentic play.  Even though research shows that children who play are smarter, we discount it as a waste of time.  We can’t measure it or quantify it.  John Byers, and animal play scholar discovered an important correlation to the amount of play and the brain’s frontal cortex, which is responsible for cognition or thinking.  During play, we discover new possibilities and learn from them. Animals spontaneously “play” in order to test out their strength and the strength of their would-be opponents.  According to Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, we are born to play and without it, we lose our sense of optimism.  He states that play is not necessarily an activity so much as it is a state of mind.  He states that when we stop playing, we start dying.

Why our children not playing?

They go to school where they take tests to take more tests.  They are drilled on facts and even something that could be pleasurable such as reading is turned into a task.  After all, you MUST log so many hours a week.  Spontaneous outbreaks of basketball and soccer give way to organized sports with rules, uniforms and kids who want to “play” sitting on the benches.  After-school time is organized and quantified and kids who do have unscheduled time spend it with something that has an on/off switch.

Our children are not playing because WE as a society are not playing.  We rush from one task to another, looking at our children and their activities as more “to do’s”.  Our children do not need more activities or “stuff” – they need more of us and more of our time and more unscheduled time to make something out of nothing.  They need time to make a tent in the front room, take a cardboard box and turn it into something magical, make mud pies, blow bubbles, make sandcastles and time to get bored enough to do something about it.  They need time to allow their imaginations to wander around aimlessly exploring new territory.  Who knows what they might find there?

We might teach our children how to read and write. But, without creativity and imagination, they’ll have nothing to read and write about.

By taking a day or an hour to nurture the playful child within and facilitate our children’s imaginations and creativity, we might do more than boost some test scores – we might facilitate a generation of brand new thinkers.

How’s that for saving the planet?

I tried to teach my child with books,
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words,
They passed him by, often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside,
“How shall I teach this child,?” I cried.
“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”

Learning how to play is easy…just ask a child!  They have it down to a “science”.



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