Dr. Michael Yogman and his peers are recommending a literal “prescription for play” to encourage healthier childhood development.
A report entitled “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” is making a case for something that modern technology has begun to erode. Yogman and his co-authors stress that “developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers” is not merely important, but a “singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills” that form the basis for a healthy adult.
According to the report, “Play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.” And these benefits “cannot really be overstated,” Yogman told the American Academy of Pediatrics:
We’re recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it’s so important. Play with parents and peers is fundamentally important for developing a suite of 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, all needed by the next generation in an economically competitive world that requires collaboration and innovation.
The benefits of play cannot really be overstated in terms of mitigating stress, improving academic skills and helping to build the safe, stable and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress and build social-emotional resilience.
But modern society itself is a major obstacle. “Media use such as television, video games, smartphone and tablet apps are increasingly distracting children from play,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hutchinson, another of the report’s five authors. “It’s concerning when immersion in electronic media takes away time for real play, either outdoors or indoors.”
Although active engagement with age-appropriate media can be beneficial for older children, especially if supported by co-watching or co-play with peers or parents, real-time social interactions and play are superior to digital media for learning.
Yogman’s advice is simple: “The next time your child wants to play with you, say yes. It’s one of the best parts of being a parent, and one of the best things you can do for your child,” he said. “Play helps children learn language, math, and social skills, and lowers stress.”