The importance of play

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Author: Sarah Huisman
Date: November-December 2014
From: Childhood Education(Vol. 90, Issue 6)
Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International
Document Type: Column
Length: 996 words
Lexile Measure: 1180L

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In many modern societies, children are inundated with structured activities, such as dance, baseball, karate, music lessons, soccer, and swimming lessons, to name just a few. Often, young children are engaged in a variety of such extracurricular activities. The question becomes when is too much structure a bad thing for young children? Are structured activities taking the place of open-ended play?

Open-ended play used to be more common, as fewer structured activities and sports leagues designed for young children were available. Young children used to play with siblings, neighbors, friends, and by themselves during their free time. It was common to see children running through neighborhoods, playing pretend house, making up creative games, and spending time engaged in play that was not led or structured by adults. Many would suggest that times have changed, leading to the shift away from child-led, open-ended play to more of a structured approach to activities. More violence, crime, and dangerous environments have provoked fear in many parents, who consequently are reluctant to allow children to engage in child-led, open-ended play. It may be true that we hear more about violence and crimes, but should this deter child-led, open-ended play? Parents should attempt to find opportunities for open-ended play as it can benefit children in many ways.

Child-led, open-ended play has been found to develop the whole child from physical, social/emotional, and cognitive perspectives. Children who are able to engage in pretend play will develop both cognitive and social self-regulatory skills. Some of these...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A393988541