Outdoor Free Play

The joys of unstructured childhood play have the potential to improve all aspects of children’s well-being. Find out why play is so important…

“Play is essential to leading a happy and healthy life. We should all make time for play, not just children but adults as well.

An overwhelming body of research on the issue of the importance of play has continued to grow, especially recently. From babbling as a baby in the practice of early language development to …. pitch softball leagues, play is practice for life’s many challenges.

Take for example, “follow the leader”. Children learn to lead, follow, cooperate, imitate, plan and negotiate their own conflicts. Or as in the case of adult softball, play is a laboratory for practicing work related skills of teamwork, loyalty and dedication.

……. let’s differentiate the difference between work and play. “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do,” writes Mark Twain in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. ” (Why Play: The Importance of Play By: Melinda Bossenmeyer, Ed.D.)

It seems that opportunities for young children to engage in free play are declining. Play is not only the spontaneous activity children engage in to amuse and to occupy themselves, it is also a way in which children optimize their own brain development. So the observation that children “no longer play” is actually very serious.

Evidence suggests that children are playing less and that there is less play without structure imposed by adults, and less play outdoors. There is no doubt that children are spending far more time indoors on electronic devices, and this can come at a considerable cost to a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Today the average Irish child gets less than an hour of fresh air a day, less than prisoners are entitled to, under the UN rights for prisoners.

Children should be encouraged to play, and particularly unstructured outdoor play. The joys of unstructured childhood play have the potential to improve all aspects of children’s well-being: physical, emotional, social and cognitive.

For more discussion on play check out the following links:

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