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Play Can Be Serious Business!

See also below, Why I am Leaving "Guyland"
on the terrible decline in maturity in America and abuse of "play".

From Education Advocate, http://www.ceopa.org/newsletter.html  Click for pdf copy. 

[COMMENT:   My wife used to teach nursery school, and was very good at it.  The children had tshirts which said, "My Play IS My Work!!!"  Any alive parent knows this intuitively.   So the theme below is nothing new, but it is something little understood in our increasingly grace-less culture.   Thank God some helpful people are actually studying the matter. 

Play is not what you do when you finally get off work ("TGIFriday!").  Play is what work is all about.  Play is what you do for its own sake.  Work is what you do for the sake of something else.   So, logically, all work is done for the sake of play.  Play is not the frivolous thing, it is rather the important thing.  The most playful time of our lives ought to be our times of worship -- the thing we do more than anything else for its own sake. 

If children never learn to play, if that is not what they learn early on, then they are never learning to do things for their own sake.  They never find anything that they want to do for its own sake.  So they are caught in a rat-race of always doing something for the sake of something else, always someone else's plan, never their own.  They never develop their own plans for life, they are always trying to get their sense of being-a-someone from following someone else's plan.  Many of our children are not learning how to play.  That means they can never mature into freestanding adults. 

That is salvation by works with a vengeance -- trying to base my identity on impressing someone else -- trying to be me by what I can do to buy their goodwill, following their agenda, rather than by what God is freely, gracefully doing (holding me in existence, creating me).  Life will then be a treadmill of frustration and disillusionment where the only self I find keeps disappearing into a bottomless black hole of impressing and appeasing others. 

No wonder angry and bitter people turn out to not have learned how to play. 

Heaven is the place of playfulness, where we know what is valuable and what therefore is to be done for its own sake -- building loving relationships.  Hell is where no one knows what is truly valuable, durable, everlasting, and can never find anything to do for its own sake, always searching..... 

Pleasure- and power-seeking do not cut the mustard.  They have no substance to be what we do for their own sake, and so lead to boredom and death.  

Play is not just pragmatic, for developing skills (as below).  It is the essence of life, what life is all about, the very goal of all life, that great prize toward which everything else, all work, flows.       E. Fox]


Are building blocks, dollhouses, tag and kickball, marbles, empty refrigerator boxes, and playing pirates and princesses just useless playtime relics from the past? Or is this type of creative, child-driven play an important aspect of healthy growth and development of children?

Researchers who study the value of playing have found that “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, [physical], and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”1   When children are playing creatively, they are actually building real life skills.2   More specifically, researchers have found that child-driven play:

· Develops creativity, imagination, and brain function 3

· Enhances language development and expands vocabulary 4

· Encourages working in groups, sharing, negotiating, and making decisions 3

· Develops confidence and resiliency needed to face future challenges 3

· Enables healthy physical development and activity that wards off obesity 5

· Offers parents the opportunity to fully engage with their children 3

Psychology professor Dr. Laura Berk identifies one of the most important, long-lasting aspects of play - “Executive Function” – a cognitive skill that allows individuals to self-regulate their emotions, behavior, impulses, and actions. When a self-regulation study done in the late 1940’s was replicated in 2001 with children of the same age, researchers found disturbing results.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago.”2 Dr. Berk asserts that poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use, and crime. Furthermore, “good executive function is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ. Children who are able to manage their feelings and pay attention are better able to learn…Selfregulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain.”2

Today, it seems that too many American children never enjoy free playtime since they: · are hurried to learn more at an earlier age to meet school and parental expectations 3

· are overscheduled with adult-led programs, i.e. little league, tutoring, piano lessons3

· devote 40 hours a week to TV, videogames, the Internet and other passive technological activities 4

· lack access to safe outdoor environments, like parks, woods, fields, vacant lots 6

· enter structured childcare environments at earlier ages and attend after-school programs to accommodate schedules of working parents

· are losing the benefit of recess, physical education, and playtime as schools focus

more on academics - In fact, “Reduced time for physical activity may be contributing to the discordant academic abilities between boys and girls, because schools that promote sedentary styles of learning become a more difficult environment for boys to navigate successfully.”3

What are some of the negative effects of this lifestyle? Doctors, teachers, parents and researchers have noted more childhood stress, anxiety, depression, uncontrolled behavior, cheating, and obesity – all of which may be related to diminished, age-appropriate free play.Carried to the extreme, Dr. Stuart Brown, retired psychiatrist and founder of the National  discovering its absence in the life stories of murderers and felony drunk drivers.” 7 His work led to additional research on the causes of violence that pointed to lack of play as a contributing factor. What could be the link between play deprivation and violence? Dr. Brown suggests that playing instills necessary positive human qualities like optimism, trust, compassion, and empathy.

With all this in mind, parents are the key to finding an “appropriate balance between preparing for the future and living fully in the present through play, child-centered organized activities, and rich parent-child interaction.” 3

There is no magic formula in childrearing because every child, parent, and family is unique. But the coming summer months offer parents a wonderful opportunity to make carefree play part of their child’s life by visiting a park, daydreaming under a tree, counting the stars, or sailing across the ocean in an imaginary ship as children and parents share the joy of living and learning. ?

1 New AAP Report Stresses Play for Healthy Development. American Academy of Pediatrics. www.aap.org/pressroom/playpublic. htm.

2 Spiegel, Alix. “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills.” NPR.

5 May 2008. www.npr.org.

3 Ginsburg, MD, Kenneth R. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics Vol. 119, No. 1, pp. 182-191. Jan 2007.

4 Kalb, Claudia. “Playing Ye Olde Way.” Newsweek. 23 Oct 2007. www.newsweeek.com.

5 Henig, Robin Marantz. “Taking Play Seriously.” The New York Times. 17 Feb 2007. www.nytimes.com.

6 “Projects.” Alliance for Childhood. www. allianceforchildhood.org.

7 Olfman, Sharna. “What About Play?” Rethinking Schools Online. Spring 2005. Vol. 19, No. 3.

8 The National Institute for Play. www.nifplay.org.


Why I Am Leaving "Guyland"

 Newsweek (Sept. 8, 2008, p. 70) has an article with the above title by a 20-something man who is leaving the pleasure-seeking society of his peers for something more substantial -- marriage.  Here are some quotes.  One professor who studies these things notes that...

...the traditional markers of manhood -- leaving home, getting an education, finding a partner, starting work, and becoming a father -- have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved from "a transitional moment to a whole new stage of life."  In 1960, almost 70 percent of men hd reached these milestones by the age of 30.  Today, less than a third of males that age can say the same.

"What use to be regressive weekends are new whole years in the lives of some guys," Kimmel tells Newsweek....  the lockstep march to manhood is often interrupted by a debauched and decade-long odyssey, in which youths buddy together in search of new ways to feel like men.  Actually, it's more like all the old ways -- drinking, smoking....  turned up a notch....  

Since 1971, annual salaries for males 25 to 34 with full-time jobs have plummeted almost 20 percent....  At the same time, women have crashed just about all the old male haunts, and are sowing some signs of outpacing their husbands and boyfriends as breadwinners and heads of family....   Last year researchers at Queens College in New York determined that women between 21 and 30 in at least five major cities.... have not only made up the wage gap since 1970 -- they now earn upwards of 15 percent more than their male counterparts.   ....

Today's guys are perhaps the first downwardly mobile -- and endlessly adolescent -- generation of men in U. S. history.  They're also among the most distraught -- men between the ages of 16 and 26 have the highest suicide rate for any group except men above 70 -- and socially isolated, despite their image as a band of backslapping buddies.   ....twentysomething guys are bowling alone when compared with the rest of society.  They ae less likely to read a newspaper, attend church, vote for president or believe that peope are basically trusworthy, helpful, and fair.   ....the percentage of 26-year-olds living with their parents has nearly doubled since 1970, from 11 to 20 percent.... 

This is a societal tailspin into self-destruction. 

Either these "guys" never learned how to play, or that is all they learned, what used to be called spoiled brats, incapable of saying "no" to themselves, and certainly do not want anyone else saying it to them. 

Play is the most important thing in life -- that which we do for its own sake.  But we had better choose well what we do for its own sake, because if we choose wrongly, we will surely die.  "All things betray thee who betrayest Me..." said the Hound of Heaven.  There is no other way to life than God's way.  All other ground is sinking sand.  

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Date Posted -  09/08/2008   -   Date Last Edited - 09/15/2012