Play…it’s essential to human development. If you are of my generation, you remember roaming the neighborhood without adult supervision, playing with your peers in empty lots, houses under construction, and playgrounds at parks and schools. Today, I would never think of giving my own children this allowance of freedom if I lived in town.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is important to healthy brain development and allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generations in part because only 20-percent live within walking distance of a park or playground. This Play Deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically as well as mentally and socially because children need a place to play every day in order to be active and healthy.
That’s right! Only one-in-five children live within “walking distance” of playgrounds or parks. Not only are our children not living near parks, those parks are too safe! As another example of how we overprotect our children, playgrounds have become sterile places where children are robbed of challenging their gross motor skills and overcoming psychological fears. The Daily Mail reports:
Old-fashioned playground equipment like climbing frames, sand pits and paddling pools are set to be re-introduced after research found a degree of risk helps children to develop.
For years councils have felt forced to remove older attractions from their sites fearing any potential injuries could result in costly legal battles.
But recent research has shown that children actually benefit from risk when they play as it helps them develop the judgement skills they need in later life.
I still remember when my elementary school installed giant heavy equipment tires on our playground. We would run and jump up trying to scale to the top. After countless tries, reaching the top was a serious achievement, but that was not all! We would then jump from tire to tire, which was quite a leap. I can’t imagine parents or teachers today allowing children such an experience. I think my heart would drop watching my own children try such a feat.