The Need to Play

Play is an important, vital need that children have. Play is naturally what children do. It’s how they test their limits, explore their independence, learn to work in a group, and above all have fun!

But for some children, the opportunity to play does not exist:

  • Today’s children are often passive, and physically inactive as a result of the dramatic rise in video games, combined with a reduction in physical education programs in schools.
  • The critical numbers of children needed for a spontaneous game of ball or hide-and-seek doesn’t seem to exist in many neighbourhoods. Many children are often found indoors.

Just what happens when children don’t play?

  • Bored and isolated preteens and teens turn to vandalism, gangs,graffiti, violence, and drug abuse.
  • Declines in physical fitnesss: Childhood obesity has soared in the past ten years; and 55% of girls and 25% of boys can’t do a single push-up.
  • Children get depressed. Four times as many of Canada’s children and young people kill themselves today as 40 years ago.

What You Can Do to Encourage Fun

Learn to tolerate noise.

Fun is not quiet. Don’t be a stick in the mud when neighbourhood children are being expressive and ebullient on your block, in the park, or in your backyard.

Make your home a place where neighbourhood children come to have fun.

Sponsor a “Backyard Olympics.” You can provide hula-hoops, jump ropes, or a badminton set, and reward the winners (and losers!) with some inexpensive prizes.

Throw the ball!

Call time out and join a child in a game of catch, hide-and-seek, or the Mad Hatter’s tea party.  Did you know that today’s parents spend less time with their children than parents 30 years ago? When a child invites you into his or her games, gladly  join in and play.

Additional Resources

The Importance of Free Play: Activities for Kids. By  Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Dr. Stuart Brown says play is more than fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults; and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age. We need to encourage play in our children and for ourselves. See the video (about 27 mins) at TED Talks.

“How play-based learning can lead to more successful kids” – The Globe and Mail (June 2011).  The research is in.  Children need to play freely. Parents can assist and help.

Do you want to dig deeper into the subject?  Read:  The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv, 2005.  See sample chapters at

See also my post: Learning with Playing Cards










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