Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect
JAMA Pediatrics | 2005 | Hillary L. Burdette, MD, MS; Robert C. Whitaker, MD, MPH
ABSTRACT | WHY A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE? | WHY A FOCUS ON OTHER OUTCOMES?| ATTENTION | AFFILIATION | AFFECT | CONVEYING THE MESSAGE ABOUT PLAY |ARTICLE INFORMATION | REFERENCES
We have observed that the nature and amount of free play in young children has changed. Our purpose in this article is to demonstrate why play, and particularly active, unstructured, outdoor play, needs to be restored in children’s lives. We propose that efforts to increase physical activity in young children might be more successful if physical activity is promoted using different language—encouraging play—and if a different set of outcomes are emphasized—aspects of child well-being other than physical health. Because most physical activity in preschoolers is equivalent to gross motor play, we suggest that the term “play” be used to encourage movement in preschoolers. The benefits of play on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development are explored.
In observing the obesity epidemic,1 many grandparents, and even some parents, remark that children of today no longer play the way children used to play. Play is the spontaneous activity in which children engage to amuse and to occupy themselves. It is also a way children optimize their own brain development. Viewed from this perspective, the nostalgic observation that children “no longer play” should be taken seriously because the consequences for child well-being extend beyond the problem of obesity.