Now, you may have already read about an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Gray and Lenore Skenazy. Studies have found that American children ages 9 through 12 get less than an hour of free play each day, and that is mostly indoors. (We are not counting screen-time consumption of content created by others as play by this definition.)
I, they, and others will contend vociferously that given the key learnings derived from open ended, child-directed play, one hour is NOT ENOUGH!!!
So why is play so important?
(1 through 3 can be found here)
4. Paying Attention
Are there any play activities during which it is important for kids to pay attention? All of them, is the answer. Whether you are playing catch, card games, tag, or any other game or activity, you gotta pay attention. This learning is key to future successes in school, work, and life.
You gotta learn to pay attention. Play is a powerful teacher from whom one gains practice in learning to pay attention and learns the consequences of not doing so.
5. Managing Difficult Tasks
I am not so sure about this one, so I will skip over it. You may read up on it if you so desire, and maybe you can explain this one to me sometime.
6. Learning to Practice
It has been said that 10,000 hours of practice is needed to achieve mastery of any skill. That’s why champions often start learning their crafts at a young age. Repetition, or practice, whether with building blocks or other play, helps to build skills that will be key later in life.
The habit of repetitive practice itself as a means of skill development, or getting good at something, is important. Play helps kids practice practicing, so to speak.
Oh, and one last thing!
7. Learning problem solving
Open-ended play presents the opportunity to encounter and solve a wide variety of problems whether they relate to social interaction, intellect, communication, physical space, and emotional well-being. The gamut of problems that we face in the human condition children will practice solving during play time.
Play is essential, and not all play is created equal. Open-ended, kid-directed, social, constantly-created-out-of-their-imaginations play is essential. Toys are an important inspirational jumping-off point for this sort of play.
Kids today are not getting enough of it – certainly not so much as the generations that preceded them.