A Department for Health commissioned survey in 2004 concluded that 1 in 10 British children aged 5-16 are diagnosed with mental disorders. Childhood stress, psychological problems and self-abuse are increasing.
Gone are the hazy days when kids could run free all day and play. Urbanisation has had many implications for childhood play but at the core humans are still 'hunter-gatherers' and need to seek out knowledge of 'being social' through experience and discovery. Through play "children develop… an emergent sense of competence … feelings of 'belonging', 'usefulness', and subsequent well-being." When deprived of play, children lack social connectivity and have less 'mental wellness'. Is lack of play contributing to a dysfunctional society?
Childhood free play is the basis on which individuals develop many crucial social skills which equip them for the intricacies of life in adult communities. UNICEF states, free play in peer groups helps children "learn and practise the control of aggression, the management of conflict, the earning of respect and friendship, discussion of feelings, appreciation of diversity, and awareness of the needs and feelings of others." With play at the core of children's social development, why are we continually degrading it?
Play is a global universal; throughout evolution it has always been important. The authors urge UK/US policy makers to rethink and reinstate the importance of play vs. adult-led learning. They conclude that increased opportunities for free play are the key to organic development of a healthy generation.
- Pam Jarvis, Stephen Newman, Louise Swiniarski. On ‘becoming social’: the importance of collaborative free play in childhood. International Journal of Play, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2013.863440
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