In our fast-paced world of global connectedness, children are growing up faster than ever before. According to a Surgeon General’s Conference on Children’s Mental Health as noted in “the power of play: learning what comes naturally,” by David Elkind, Ph.D., “growing numbers of children are suffering needlessly because their emotional, behavioral and developmental needs are not being met by the very institutions that were explicitly created to take care of them.” Elkind notes that more than 20 percent of children now suffer from such problems; 13 percent are obese.
“The psychological consequences of the failure to engage in spontaneous, self-initiated play are equally serious and equally worrisome,” he continues.
The Boston Children’s Museum agrees that lack of play is overwhelmingly negative. On their website, the institution states:
The science of brain development is providing concrete evidence that there is real power in play. While often dismissed as “just fun,” play is the vital activity that children use to learn about and interact with their world, and gain the mental, physical and social skills necessary to succeed in their adult lives. As Professor Karen Hutchison of Rowan University says, “Play is actually the work of a child in which they are preparing themselves for adult roles and for society at large.”
More than impacting children’s emotional and physical well-being, play affects a child’s ability to learn. Elkind writes: “I believe that combining play, love, and work is the means of successful academic achievement. It is when all three are brought together that children have the best chance of learning in the context of their unique personal circumstances.”
Thus, play is more than a vital catharsis for children; it is a vital component in the tapestry that forms each child’s overall emotional, intellectual and physical health.
At Laurel Springs School, we too value the “power of play” and wish to see it incorporated into the lives of all our students. With our asynchronous model, our students have time for work and play, a vital balance as both are so integral to students’ success.
It is our duty to not just our children but to our own future, wherein today’s young people will be tomorrow’s caretakers, to ensure the rich and vibrant history of play throughout the ages lives on.