The Power of Play in Children’s Health

The impact of play in the life of children has long been debated. Throughout American history, dating back to colonial times, adults have struggled with understanding the importance and value of play in the lives of our youngest citizens. Over time, however, it has been recognized as a key driver of child development, even recognized by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a basic privilege that should be afforded to all children.

Over the decades, much research has been done on play, and although many advantages have been described and accepted, little quantitative information exists to illustrate its importance. At its very core, play allows for self-expression and communication of the point of view of a child who may not have all of the vocabulary to explain their thoughts on the things going on in the adult world around them. It allows for engagement in society, with peers and with those in authoritative positions without seeming threatening. Play allows for a safe environment to learn and solve problems, acquire language skills and support novel behaviors to hone important life skills. Free play can help children acquire a new set of skills that allow them to make sense of the world, decrease stress and help define personal responsibility to society. It can allow a glimpse into the desired future state from the child's point of view, inherently filled with potential and hope.

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