The Importance of Play

Topics: Childhood, Developmental psychology, Human development Pages: 35 (7811 words) Published: June 12, 2014

The Importance of Play in Promoting
Healthy Child Development and
Maintaining Strong Parent-Child

Guidance for the Clinician in Rendering
Pediatric Care

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, and the Committee on Communications and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. Despite the benefits derived from play for both children and parents, time for free play has been markedly reduced for some children. This report addresses a variety of factors that have reduced play, including a hurried lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academics and enrichment activities at the expense of recess or free child-centered play. This report offers guidelines on how pediatricians can advocate for children by helping families, school systems, and communities consider how best to ensure that play is protected as they seek the balance in children’s lives to create the optimal developmental milieu.

Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.1 This birthright is challenged by forces including child labor and exploitation practices, war and neighborhood violence, and the limited resources available to children living in poverty. However, even those children who are fortunate enough to have abundant available resources and who live in relative peace may not be receiving the full benefits of play. Many of these children are being raised in an increasingly hurried and pressured style that may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play. Because every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their unique potential, child advocates must consider all factors that interfere with optimal development and press for circumstances that allow each child to fully reap the advantages associated with play. No single set of guidelines could do justice to the many factors that impact on children’s play, even if it was to focus only on children living in the United States. These guidelines will focus on how American children with adequate resources may be limited from enjoying the full developmental assets associated with play because of a family’s hurried lifestyle as well as an increased focus on the fundamentals of academic preparation in lieu of a broader view of education. Those forces that prevent children in poverty and the working class from benefiting fully from play deserve full, even urgent, attention, and will be addressed in a future


All clinical reports from the American
Academy of Pediatrics automatically
expire 5 years after publication unless
reaffirmed, revised, or retired at or
before that time.
The guidance in this report does not
indicate an exclusive course of treatment
or serve as a standard of medical care.
Variations, taking into account individual
circumstances, may be appropriate.
Key Words
children, adolescents, play, parents,
resilience, mental health, college,
PEDIATRICS (ISSN Numbers: Print, 0031-4005;
Online, 1098-4275). Copyright © 2007 by the
American Academy of Pediatrics

document. Those issues that impact on play for children
with limited resources will be mentioned briefly here to
reinforce that play contributes to optimal child development for all children and that we must advocate for the changes specific to the need of each child’s social and
environmental context that would enhance the opportunities for play. These guidelines were written in response to the multiple forces that challenge play. The...

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