Play Deficit- an alarming trend

“Neuroscientists, developmental biologists, social scientists, and researchers from every point of the scientific compass now know that play is a profound biological process.”

-Stuart Brown Play, How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and invigorates the Soul

What happens when play, a “profound biological process” is interrupted?  Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly clear.  The consequences of play deficit are alarming, both to individuals and communities. . .

All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed

The Loss of Children’s Play: A Public Health Issue

Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)

The decline of play | Peter Gray | TEDxNavesink – YouTube

Consequences of Play Deprivation. Stuart L. Brown (2014), Scholarpedia, 9(5):30449.

American Academy of Pediatrics:  The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds


The problem

“Play is the highest level of child development . . . The plays of childhood are the germinal leaves of later life.”    -Friedrich Froebel

Researchers agree that play is an essential part of a child’s development and that children learn best through play.  (Adults learn best through play, too. . . but we’ll keep that research on hold for another post.)  Research also shows a clear link between the development of social and emotional skills and play experiences.

Play should be an important part of every early elementary classroom, but isn’t.  In my experiences as a teacher it is extremely difficult to incorporate play into a traditional classroom.  The days are too full of looming standards, an overwhelming amount of curriculum that must be covered, mandated benchmarks that must be reached, and seemingly endless assessments.  These academic mandates often take priority over other classroom experiences– never-ending work leaving no time for play!

It is time to rethink our early elementary classrooms.  It is time to be intentional; to acknowledge and incorporate the overwhelming research supporting play based learning.