March 28, 2017 Carol Miller

Play Impacts Kid’s Physical and Mental Health

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Play impacts kid’s physical and mental health. Think of what children are doing today to play versus 20 years ago. Things have changed dramatically and not necessarily for the better.

Society and especially kids have been caught up in the electronics revolution. Too many kids are moving their fingers, but not their bodies. The advent and rapid adoption of technology ranging from cell phones to video game consoles lead to sedentary lifestyles, we move our fingers and hands but not our bodies for entertainment and more.

We are now seeing kids as young as 8 years old with cardiac diseases[1]

Play Impacts Kid’s Physical and Mental Health

The result is that childhood obesity is a growing health risk and we are now seeing kids as young as 8 years old with cardiac diseases that usually one does not develop until much later in life. Childhood diabetes historically was limited to Type 1, which has no known cause and requires daily insulin shots. Today kids as young as 9 yrs old are developing Type II diabetes as a result of inactivity and obesity.

Play is a critical development period in all kids lives; this is where they learn fundamental skills to succeed as adults along with a lifelong live of fitness.

Play is a life shaper as well as a lifesaver!

The Benefits of Play

Play involves physical activity, not where kids are sedentary or just moving their fingers playing a video game.

When kids play, they grow in physical, mental, social and spiritual ways

The benefits of play from a physical standpoint are well established. Dr. William Bird, a world health expert on physical activity, states why the physical benefits are only one of the advantages. “Physical activity is essential for normal development of your child’s brain. The brain in an inactive child fails to develop normally with fewer neuronal connections. Children’s behavior and learning are improved by physical activity.”

Play has many benefits. Play allows ‘kids can be kids.’ Play is where kids are physically moving, communicating, and socializing with other children and adults. When kids play, they grow in physical, mental, social and spiritual ways. Play is not where moms and dads do not hover over them in a way where they can’t be themselves; parents may be involved in play with their kids, but allow the kids to lead the activity. When children play, they make decisions on their own, they learn to work with other kids, they take risks, they communicate with their peers, and they are creative. Think about how as a child if you wanted to play soccer or baseball or any sport with your friends. You set your own rules. If you did not have enough players to have a right fielder, you said balls hit to the right were outs. This creative process is one that benefits children when they are left alone to find solutions.

“Play is nature’s means for young human beings to acquire the skills to develop successfully into adulthood.”

An expert in the childhood development, Peter Gray, gives us further insight. “Play is nature’s means for young human beings to acquire the skills to develop successfully into adulthood.” Peter Gray, a professor at Boston College, recently spoke for 16 minutes on the evolution of childhood and play. You will be amazed at what you learn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg-GEzM7iTk&feature=youtu.be

Play Today verses 20 Years Ago

When children play, they make decisions on their own, they learn to work with other children, they take risks, they communicate with their peers, and they are creative.

When you think about how you played as a child versus kids today, a lot has changed. There are a lot of answers as to the why, but we have a few reasons

Many sports & other activities are too serious and structured – We need to make sure “fun” is the driving reason children to play a sport or do an activity. Many of the structured sports activities have become too serious. “Traveling Teams’ and constant parent supervision can take away the fun of sports or activities.

Financial Costs of Sports is out of the reach of many families – Less than 3% of the inner city and rural kids participate in organized sports, the cost of team play is often more than $1800 per child. Many teams are traveling teams, and the cost exceeds the economic capability of many families. Thus, these groups of kids are put at a further disadvantage by simple economics.

Electronic devices – Video games, social media and other technology devices make it too easy for children to be left alone. We even see groups of children together all communicating with their head focused on their smartphones. Nothing is moving except their fingers, not even their wrist. As parents often our kids arrive home from school, start playing video games on their phones or game consoles and never move. We come home, thinking they are finishing up homework, start dinner, watch a TV show together and head to bed. The result is kids are now spending over 7.5 hours a day on ‘screen time,’ the average teenager moves 39.4 minutes per day, with just 4.8% of their time at school physically active.

Availability of safe locations – Yes, this is an issue. But we challenge every parent to find places for their children to play. Even if it takes a parent to be there, everyone can find locations for children to play. Use the local school playground, a neighborhood park or field, backyards. Arrange for a community active play date with all the kids in the neighborhood.

Longer school days – School days have increased in length and also eliminated playtime – recess and physical education to focus on testing to test scores at the detriment of kid’s physical and mental health. Kids mental and physical health is far important than a test score; however many school district federal and state funding is tied to test scores. Also, a longer school day also cuts down on the time available for out of school playtime.

Children’s days & lives are too structured – As Peter Gray says, kids have lost their freedom to be kids and too often are doing things, which relate to ‘resume building.’ Play is one of the few times children take control of their lives.

Low physical activity level is associated with worse cognitive function 25 years later in midlife – Researchers followed a cohort of subjects followed for 25 years and found that low levels of physical activity and high levels of television viewing during young to mid-adulthood were associated with worse cognitive performance in midlife. In particular, these behaviors were associated with slower processing speed and worse executive function.  Executive function is a cognitive process, including working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, and problem-solving as well as planning and execution.

Looking For Solutions? Play2Health Has Some

We can’t tackle every issue, but we have some great solutions for every parent. Create Playtime for your kids, aim for at least 2 hours per day. 

Imagine have a library of fun games and fun interactive physically active fitness and exercise videos designed for families and kids of all ages! These fun videos are short bouts of physical activity with music and downloadable PDF’s that explain the goals and objectives along with skills developed for each activity that is ‘streamed directly into your home, classroom or to a mobile device. 

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[1]Cassi M. Friday, M.S.; Jonathan D. Suever, Ph.D.; NiveditaUmasankar, B.S.; Christopher M. Haggerty, Ph.D.; Gregory J. Wehner, B.S.; Sean M. Hamlet, M.S.; David K. Powell, Ph.D.; Aurelia Radulescu, M.D.; H. Lester Kirchner, Ph.D.; Frederick H. Epstein, Ph.D.; and Brandon K. Fornwalt, M.D., Ph.D. Obese kids young as age 8 show signs of heart disease, American Heart Association Meeting Report – Abstract 15439, November 10, 2105