“Without free, big outdoor movement play, children “…are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions.”
Angela Hanscom, “The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues,” Angela Hanscom, Washington Post
Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and author. Her article, “The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues”, posits that children are having difficulty emotionally coping and handling basic socialization activities like sharing and taking turns.
She wrote those words in 2018, before the pandemic. Her words are now more critical than ever as children who, due to Covid, missed out on learning social cues, not to mention getting outside with other children and learning to play together.
To describe what is going on she quotes a preschool teacher who has been in the classroom for forty years. Here is how she describes the behavior of the children:
“They are more easily frustrated – often crying at the drop of a hat.” She had also observed that children were frequently falling out of their seats “at least three times a day,” less attentive, and running into each other and even the walls. “It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past.“The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues”, Washington Post
What has changed? An emphasis on academic performance at the cost of play is causing children to be academically sharper at a younger age but lacking in what can only be learned on the playground: Having to get along with others. In addition, the lack of playtime leads to heightened aggression and an inability to sit still.
Adults try to help children cope by teaching them meditation, breathing exercises, and more. As she points out, all of this would be unnecessary if children got the amount of playtime essential in children before the age of seven.
As Ms. Hascom puts it, without free, big outdoor movement play, children “…are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions.”
As I have noted before, we in the toy industry need to advocate for play in our homes and communities. If we don’t, those children may grow up to be adults who bump into each other on the sidewalks, and we all know where that ends up.