I think most schools are back in session now (man, what took some of you so long?).
Now I want you to look at the weekly schedule you’ve set up for your kids and yourself (you’re probably the chauffeur right?) and ask, have I scheduled time for my kids to just play?
Not play organized sports or play the piano or play for 4 minutes before 3 hours of dance. I mean, just creative, wild, energetic, zip down the slide, jump from the monkey bars, dig in the dirt, build things from sticks free play.
Schedule it. (I know. I’m bossy today.) And there’s a really good reason for it. Because research is showing us that time on the playground is essential for brain development. Which is why I joined Playworld Systems (a US manufacturer of playground equipment) to save play.
There is science behind this. And because I’ve always dreamed of being an 8th grade science teacher (well, that or an Olympic ice skater), I’ll explain.
According to a recent piece on NPR, research shows that play actually changes the connections of neurons in the front of the brain and these changes play an important role in a child’s ability to interact with people in positive ways, problem solve and even get better grades.
“In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child’s social skills in third grade.” And that’s not all. “Countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less,” said Sergio Pellis, a Canadian researcher.
Which means 15 minutes of recess (the norm is some American schools) doesn’t really cut it.
Now there are some really cool playgrounds out there. Look at this one in Berkeley (of course) where kids can hammer, paint, saw and be free.
Courtesy: David Gilkey/NPR
You can seek out great playgrounds just about anywhere – a place where kids can have unstructured fun, letting their imaginations and creativity run free.
The wonderful thing about free play is that it is actually free. Unlike those classes where your kids learn how to act out Shakespearian plays backwards in the language of Quechua.
And free is awesome for your budget.
Now I know you like that child brain development thing and that no money thing sounds fabulous too but at this point, you might be jealous. Hey, why should my little Sally get all the fun and I’m still just the chauffeur around here?!
Turns out play is important for adults too.
It helps keep our minds sharp, connected in the world, bonded to our loved ones and well, happy. So go outside. Do something just for you, whatever sounds fun. I mean, don’t rob banks. That will get you thrown in jail, which is totally the opposite of fun.
But go out and play.
You can even swing from the monkey bars to show your kids how it’s done.