CHILDREN need a lot of time, even coaxed to stomp, romp, frolic. Enjoy, gambol, spill out those brimming wellsprings of adrenaline in themselves— let ‘em play to their heart’s content.
If not, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported recently, they may not become fully adjusted physically, socially, and emotionally.
The report noted that in today’s world of overstressed parents and overworked children, too meager time was left for old-fashioned unstructured play.
In 1907, prolific plant breeder and genius Luther Burbank plied out the same counsel: “Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay-fields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.
“By being well acquainted with all these they come into most intimate harmony with nature, whose lessons are, of course, natural and wholesome.”
Kids deprived of those hands-on lessons grow up into adulthood but as Burbank noted: “It will be observed that the mind of such a person gradually stops growing, for, being constantly hedged in and cropped here and there, it soon learns to respect artificial fences more than freedom for growth. You have not been a very close observer of such men if you have not seen them shrivel, become commonplace, mean, without influence, without friends and the enthusiasm of youth and growth, tike a tree covered with fungus, the foliage diseased, and the life gone out of the heart with dry rot and indelibly marked for destruction dead, but not yet handed over to the undertaker.”
In less harsher terms, the AAP report echoes Burbank’s observation: “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.”
The report warned that less playtime at school to allow for more academics and an abundance of after-school activities could have implications on children’s cognitive abilities and their emotional stability.
“In contrast to passive entertainment, play builds active, healthy bodies,” the report said. “Perhaps above all, play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.”
Or as a playful U2 lead Bono had it worded, “Time won’t leave me as I am but time won’t take out the boy in this man.”