Why You Need to Have More Patience with Child’s PlayFamily Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
When we think about workaholics, the phrase, “All work and no play” comes to mind. And it’s true that many of us adults need to “play” more - whether it’s going to a movie, taking a trip, attending a concert or maybe even engaging in a little retail therapy.
But I think when it comes to kids, we seem to be inclined to restrict their playtime in order to ensure that they have enough time to do well academically. After all, we want them to grow into smart and successful adults.
According to extensive research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), schools’ main focus are academic results. But this results-driven way of learning comes with the sacrifice of playful learning.
“An increasing societal focus on academic readiness (promulgated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) has led to a focus on structured activities that are designed to promote academic results as early as preschool, with a corresponding decrease in playful learning,” reports the Academy.
“The definition of play is elusive. However, there is a growing consensus that it is an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery. Play is voluntary and often has no extrinsic goals; it is fun and often spontaneous.”
Preschool aged children (2 ½ to 4 ½ years) are awfully young to have their academic performance judged. Of course, it’s important to monitor whether a kid is learning or not, but the AAP’s research also shows that in order for kids to excel academically and as adults out in the real world, schools may want to shift focus and emphasize the importance of play.
Kids with sufficient playtime appear to have positive benefits in development, including helping to build executive functioning skills. Play may even help kids better cope with stress, be better problem-solvers and be more independent.
According to the AAP, playful learning includes social skills which may “enable children to listen to directions, pay attention, solve disputes with words, and focus on tasks without constant supervision.”
And Apparently, We Are All Meant to Play.
Reportedly, it is “part of our evolutionary heritage.” Play takes place “in a wide spectrum of species, is fundamental to health, and gives us opportunities to practice and hone the skills needed to live in a complex world.”
Moreover, Children May Mimic Us in Their Play.
“Depending on the culture of the adults in their world, children learn different skills through play. Sociodramatic play is when children act out the roles of adulthood from having observed the activities of their elders. Extensive studies of animal play suggest that the function of play is to build a prosocial brain that can interact effectively with others.”
So our children really do look up to us and follow our behavior. This is why we love the phrase, “Healthy parents, healthy kids.”
Furthermore, a lack of play may actually affect the brain. For example, there is some evidence that play-deprived rats have impaired problem-solving skills.
“The absence of the play experience leads to anatomically measurable changes in the neurons of the PFC [prefrontal cortex]. By refining the functional organization of the PFC, play enhances the executive functioning skills derived from this part of the brain. Whether these effects are specific to play deprivation or merely reflect the generic effect of a lack of stimulation requires further study.”
The AAP’s report recommends that pediatricians encourage playful learning for parents and infants by writing a “prescription for play” at every well-child visit in the first 2 years of life.
Obviously, You Cannot Overlook the Importance of Nutrition.
If kids are playing and physically exerting themselves, they need the proper nourishment to fuel their bodies and have energy. Proper nourishment means having the correct amount of nutrients including water, vitamins and minerals.
But many children have nutritional deficiencies which may affect their ability to perform physical activities and otherwise function well in school. Good nutrition and academic performance go hand-in-hand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anemia affects 43% of children 5 years of age globally. And according to another source, half of American children don’t get enough vitamin D or E.
The CDC says that skipping breakfast is associated with decreased cognitive performance, including alertness, attention, memory, problem-solving and more.
And remember to watch out for nutritional deficiencies.
“Deficits of specific nutrients (i.e., vitamins A, B6, B12, C, folate, iron, zinc, and calcium) are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness among students,” reports the CDC.
Here at pH Labs, we encourage nutritional testing to ensure that kids are nutritionally balanced. Kids need to be nutritionally balanced in order to have a strong immune system, perform physical activities, perform well in school and be their happiest and healthiest selves.
Let’s help our kids enjoy their healthiest lives!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.