By Neve Spicer
Play involves imagination, creativity, and innovation. For young people, it is both fun and essential. They need play in order to flex, stretch, and grow their muscles; not only their physical ones, but also the emotional, cognitive, and imaginative muscles of their minds.
But here’s the thing…
We are seeing a global increase in play poverty. Too many children are bereft of time and opportunity to play.
We see this in developing countries where there is little to no investment in play infrastructure (ie, no playgrounds in schools or community areas), but we also see it in wealthy countries where the culture views play as disposable; a non-essential distraction from more serious academic activities. This occurs in kindergarten, in elementary school, and in high school, where recess time is routinely dropped. Even after school, when children once played, many parents are arranging extra classes and organized activities instead.
Sir Ken Robinson, an expert in child education and the man behind TEDs most watched talk, describes this situation as “a disaster“.
In case you are in any doubt about how important it is that we fight play poverty, here are 43 science-backed benefits that playtime brings our children:
So what can we do to fight play poverty?
We can support communities around the world who lack resources, to design and build imaginative playgrounds using local materials and labor. We can also encourage a move away from rote learning to pedagogical best practice, including play based learning.
In our schools, we can make the case for play. Let’s get our voices heard in a bid to affect both local school policy and national education policy. Play shouldn’t be seen an a non-essential luxury. It must be viewed as vital and necessary to our children’s wellbeing and healthy growth, on every level.
At home, we can prioritize play in our child’s day and week. While enrolling our kids in a selection of extracurricular activities can be enriching, it’s important to balance this with plenty of time for free play; that is, the unstructured, self-directed play that children get up to when adults and screens take a back seat.
Let’s always remember: play is healthy, play is fun, and play is cathartic. Let’s protect and promote it as the birthright of every child.
Founder & Director