I read this article about play from the New York Times this morning on the fabulous blog of another homeschooling Mama, and had to copy it here. Here are a few paragraphs, or follow the link to see the whole article. Thanks for sharing, Karen!
For most American children in the not-so-distant past, “going out to play” was the norm. Today, according to a University of Michigan study, children spend 50 percent less time outside than they did just 20 years ago — and the 6.5 hours a day they spend with electronic media means that sitting in front of a screen has replaced going out.
Through the lens of play research, we can see that there is a direct line between play deficiencies and some frightening public health and social trends: tragic statistics for obesity, 4.5 million children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an increase in childhood depression and classroom behavioral problems involving violence, and an inability to interact well with peers.
Evidence from around the scientific compass — neuroscience, psychology, exercise physiology, sociology and developmental biology — has revealed the importance of play. Deprive a social mammal like a rat or monkey of its normal rough-and-tumble play and it enters adulthood emotionally fragile, unable to tell friend from foe, poor at handling stress and lacking the skills to mate properly.
The differences in playfulness when adulthood arrives (I have followed more than 6,000 detailed play histories) validates the importance of lifelong play. Play-deprived adults are often rigid, humorless, inflexible and closed to trying out new options. Playfulness enhances the capacity to innovate, adapt and master changing circumstances. It is not just an escape. It can help us integrate and reconcile difficult or contradictory circumstances. And, often, it can show us a way out of our problems.
True play may seem pointless — it is done for its own sake, because it’s fun — but ultimately it is also useful. From an evolutionary perspective, the smarter the animal, the more they play. For humans, play reinvigorates us not because it is down time, but because it gets us in touch with our core selves and the joy of life.