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Play Time

In a culture that has become increasingly focused on academic achievement and success, play has been sidelined. Recess hours have been cut in favor of more teaching time in order to improve performance on standardized tests and many physical education programs have been cut because of funding.

With the absence of play we have seen a rise in obesity rates and an overall decline in health – setting children up with conditions that are precursors to preventable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Children are more sedentary, are logging more screen time and staying indoors. The physical activity of play, while seeming superfluous to learning, is actually an integral ingredient in improving academic performance.

According to KaBOOM!, play benefits children in three key ways: physically, emotionally and cognitively.

Physically, play helps children develop both body awareness and fine motor skills. The result of physical activity also keeps children healthier by managing their weight naturally.

Emotionally and socially, children learn to work out differences and handle confrontations, developing social skills and building their confidence. They are also more likely to encounter culturally and ethnically different children creating an awareness of diversity and community inclusion.

Cognitively, it has been shown that children learn better when play is included on a daily basis. Their attention, creativity, imagination and memory all improve.

Fortunately there are several organizations taking on the initiative of re-introducing play into our schools and communities. KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to create play spaces and inspire neighborhoods to support play as a healthy addition to community life. Founded in 1996, KaBOOM! has built or improved over 16,000 playgrounds nationwide and served over 7.4 million children.

The non-profit organization Playworks has taken a different approach by training full-time play coaches that direct play in low-income schools and youth organizations. A study by Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research showed that schools with Playworks experienced less bullying and exclusionary behavior, an increased perception of safety, easier transitions to learning, better behavior and more attention in class than schools without the program.

Both organizations have bettering the overall health of children at the core of their missions. They know the benefits of play are far-reaching for kids and their communities because it helps to foster more balanced and healthier children into adulthood.

For more information on the benefits of play visit: www.kaboom.org and www.playworks.org


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