When you were a child how did you spend your free time? Did you spend the day with the neighborhood kids running back and forth through each other’s yards? Did you play “hide and seek” or “kick the can” or did you make up your own games? Maybe you collected bugs or rocks. Nowadays, kids have very different lives.
Today, the average child spends twelve hours less per week engaged in unstructured play compared to twenty years ago. Television, video games, and the fear of “stranger danger” are just a few factors that are depriving children of the broad range of benefits that can only be gained by free play.
We are addressing this issue by offering to parents, teachers, and community leaders a free screening and discussion of the PBS documentary, “Where Do the Children Play?” Last week we brought this program to the Raynham and Mansfield Public Libraries. Paula Peterson, the executive director of the Children’s Museum in Easton, introduced the film. After the film, she led a discussion that featured a panel of children’s specialists including Dr. Greg Nelson from Bridgewater State University and Judy Ellis of Raynham’s The Learning Loft.
We talked about how children who engage in unstructured and creative activities develop stronger problem solving and social skills. Children who spend time in nature have better attention spans, exercise more, and acquire the skills that lead to greater academic success. Judy Ellis commented, “The information is so applicable to our community not to mention valuable.”
We will continue to offer this free program to interested communities with the hopes of inspiring people to recognize the importance of play.