- “Play is behavior that looks as if it has no purpose,” says NIH psychologist Dr. Stephen Suomi. “It looks like fun, but it actually prepares [kids] for a complex social world.” Evidence suggests that play can help boost brain function, increase fitness, improve coordination, and teach cooperation.
- If human youngsters lack playtime, says Dr. Roberta Golinkoff from the University of Delaware, “social skills will likely suffer. You will lack the ability to inhibit impulses, to switch tasks easily, and to play on your own.” Play helps young children master their emotions and make their own decisions. It also teaches flexibility, motivation, and confidence.
- Importance of unstructured, creative play: “The key is that in free play, kids are making the decisions,” says Golinkoff. You can’t learn to make decisions if you’re always told what to do.
As school counselors, what can we do? Defend and support play, especially unstructured play. It may look like it has no purpose but the benefits are big and research supports it. Then if you're daring, add a few unstructured, play experiences to classroom guidance or group sessions. I can see a box with random play items ready to grab off my shelf and take to a second grade classroom... or maybe a stack of board games if we need to gradually move into unstructured play. Why is this seen as "daring"-- education has become so focused on research based programs that we overlook using the practical things that have always worked.
Be bold, step outside of structured programs and take your students with you!
Link to article: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/special-issues/parenting/its-kids-job