I love the notion that “child’s play is not just fun and games.” The current thinking and research on the importance of play in growth and development of both the body and brain is an expanding knowledge base supporting active kids. I think the recognition of the importance of physical activity and play will become even more evident in the next decade.
Here are two scenarios in which parent influence determined the opportunity for their children to play.
I sat at my granddaughter’s swimming lesson last week. Next to me on the bench was a toddler about 2 years old sitting on her mother’s lap and playing with a smartphone. For the entire 30 minute lesson the child sat and stared at the smartphone.
My grandkids began swim lessons at 3 years old (I live on a lake). Starting early was a safety issue as they are surrounded by water when visiting. Back to the story, ……….
I reflected back when both my granddaughters were in swim lessons at 3 and 4 years old. While one was in her lesson the other one was walking around watching the kids swim and talking about the kid crying in the pool or telling us about her sister. There are two distinct differences in the smartphone kid and my granddaughter related to the opportunity to play and the opportunity to learn.
1) Walking around requires movement and every step counts. Research indicates that preschoolers are significantly less active today than a decade ago. Screen time keeps increasing while physical activity is decreasing resulting in the rising rates of childhood obesity.
2) The toddler staring at a phone was not interacting with anyone. My granddaughter was talking and learning a language. She was building her vocabulary with adult supervision and interaction. She was practicing forming sentences and learning how they are structured. She was learning new to vocabulary words and listening to adults forming sentences while picking up new environmental vocabulary words.
This is so important because vocabulary development is critical to academic success and early reading. Entering school with a large vocabulary is much more important to reading than knowing the alphabet.
We can’t recover those “lost opportunities for health and learning.” Remember child’s play is not just fun and games. It’s so much more……….