Breaking news: kids need to play, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Seriously, it took the American Academy of Pediatrics to let us know that?
Better yet, the doctors now recommend that parents even get involved in playing with their children, especially before they turn two.
“This may seem old-fashioned, but there are skills to be learned when kids aren’t told what to do,” said Dr. Michael Yogman, a Harvard Medical School pediatrician who led the drafting of the call to arms. Whether it’s rough-and-tumble physical play, outdoor play or social or pretend play, kids derive important lessons from the chance to make things up as they go, he said.
It is great that they are getting this right, but it really shouldn’t take an Academy of doctors to know this. It should be pretty intuitive. Kids automatically run around, play, and make up games when left alone. So I suppose the only surprising part to some people should be that sometimes, you should leave your kid alone.
In The Future of the Mind, Michio Kaku says that the main function of the brain is running simulations of possible outcomes. That is what makes humans intelligent. We have the ability to forecast what might happen if we take certain actions.
So it only makes sense that play is integral for learning and exercising this mental process.
Some kids play “house” and act out what they think it means to be a family, a mother, and a father. Other kids wrestle and learn the consequences of slamming their heads into the wall, versus the couch, versus the window.
The recommendation from the AAP hardly scratches the surface of just how important it is for kids to play.
Indeed, new research demonstrates why playing with blocks might have been time better spent, Yogman said. The trial assessed the effectiveness of an early mathematics intervention aimed at preschoolers. The results showed almost no gains in math achievement.
I remember typing classes starting in fifth grade. The typing lessons escalated in sixth grade. You know when I finally became proficient in typing? in seventh grade when I needed to type in order to communicate with my friends on AOL Instant Messenger (my screen name started as CheeseMonkey3q3 and later changed to TheNameIsBond3. Cool, right?).
I didn’t read much until I found a book that I enjoyed reading, Harry Potter.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I found the “incentive” to learn how many grams are in an ounce…
These are just small examples. But the point is that people learn things when they have an incentive to learn them.
Do you really think a kid is going to neglect to learn how to do math when it comes time to make sure he and his siblings all got the same number of gifts on Christmas? Or the same portion of pizza?
It is just a matter of allowing kids to learn what they want to learn. If children reclaimed all the hours wasted at school, they would have plenty of time to learn the true necessities. Especially when there is an incentive to learn. Something pressing they want to do or achieve.
And learning the same skill takes a fraction of the time when it is not a purely theoretical lesson. Learning math on paper is not efficient. It doesn’t apply to the real world, however hard educators try to make the problems seem real.
But when those same “failures” go to the gym, you can bet they know the proper ratio of carbs to protein. I bet they know how many calories they need, and how to calculate their body mass index and body fat percentage.
So it is great to hear the Academy of Pediatrics coming out with the right idea. But they need to take it leaps and bounds further. It isn’t enough to say schools should keep 15 minutes of recess.
I’d rather them say, let that 14-year-old work on his dirtbike all day if that’s what he likes doing. Let the 9-year-old bookworm read. Let the kids build tree forts, shoot water guns, and cook dinner.