Bringing Back Old Fashioned Play

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”

– Dr. Seuss

I though of this quote when I came across an article by Alix Speigel, Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills . This article touches on an important topic for all parents, which is the ever growing support on the importance of creative, “old fashioned” play. Please take a moment to read this article along with my post today.

Disorders like ADD and ADHD, childhood bipolar disorder, and Anxiety and Depression in children is reported to be at an all time high these days. While there is some controversy that these are over-diagnosed (which itself a topic for another blog post), it’s hard to deny that children today are struggling with issues surrounding poor impulse control, difficulty with emotional regulation, poor attention skills, etc. These are what we call “Executive Functions.” One of the current theories is that children today are not engaging in imaginative play, which researchers are discovering is a key component in developing executive functions. The types of toys available today, along with the electronics (tv, gaming systems, iPads) are what our kids are being exposed to and spending their time doing, rather than playing outside or using their imagination. A majority of people today think these latest and greatest toys and games make our kids smarter, but in fact, studies show just the opposite!

For those of you with preteens and teenagers, this information is still relevant. Rather than watching tv or game for 2 hours after school, have your kids journal, read, or build something outside. The possibilities are endless. Changing your expectations of them now, after the bad habits have formed, will be your greatest challenge. Start out slow, maybe requiring reading time for just 15 minutes a day. Suggest some fun activities you can do as a family. Get creative and make it a priority.

As a Play Therapist, I am encouraged by this growing research that supports the power of play in a child’s cognitive development. As a parent, I am relieved to know how simple it can be to create an enriched environment for my children to thrive and grow. We don’t have to spend a lot of money or stress that they don’t have the latest toy. Encouraging our children to play creatively with one another is one of the most important things we can do. Give them crayons, blocks, or a box and cheer on their imagination and zest for what the natural environment has to offer, rather than Mattel.

Here are some more articles on the topic I think you will find interesting.

Q&A: The Best Kind of Play for Kids

Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control

New York Times: Taking Play Seriously

Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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