All Work and No Play Make Janie and Johnny Sad Little Children

All Work and No Play Make Janie and Johnny Sad Little Children

Why Children Need Play Time

Ever wonder why our modern children, with their plethora of video games, play dates, sources of entertainment, and dozens of scheduled activities seem more depressed and often supposedly require so much medication? It turns out that all of these modern advances may not be that great for them at all—and what they are lacking, of course, is simply sheer unplanned playtime.

It’s no wonder our kids are less creative than their ancestors, less happy, and so fidgety at school; we expect them to sit still all day while they memorize facts that the Internet has rendered useless, suppress their natural urges to run off all of that childhood energy, and bog them down with piles of homework (that both parents and teachers may or may not support; it comes from both sides). We have stolen their right to play! Studies even support the fact that children who do not have regular play time suffer more from anxiety and depression.

Look at any other young mammal and see how he or she learns. It’s always through play. It might be running, yipping, wrestling with his or her brothers and sisters, or even curiously exploring his or her habitat. The play may even include nudging another animal and seeing what happens! It may not be pleasant (picture your kitten poking a porcupine), but that’s how learning happens. From bears to lions, kittens to puppies, all mammals learn through play. And that play is supposed to be guaranteed to our children.

But like a good friend of mine and I were discussing the other day, parents are demanding homework for children as young as three. Everywhere I go, I hear parents asking their kids not what their favorite things are, or what they’d do with six toilet paper tubes and some glue (my child made a pretty sweet rocket ship yesterday!)—but quiz questions from presidential factoids to mathematical equations. Give your kids a break!

Have you ever considered that your child might learn more outside with a few sticks or a tree or some grass to play on rather than being drilled and drilled with facts that he or she will likely forget simply because they are not meaningful to your child to begin with? Ask your child to tell you a story (better yet, act it out with him or her—without judgment or criticism!). Give him or her some free time to him or herself—today and every day!—for not only better creativity and development, but overall health.