Once Upon a Play Time

Once upon a time, a boy lived in a house at the end of a road. The house was surrounded by fields. The boy rode his tricycle in the street every day.

As he grew older, the boy explored the fields. The surrounding villages became stops on the walk to his friend’s house.

At night, one spot was very scary. It was a footpath through a field. Ian.BikeScan.SmallThe only lights were at the ends of the path. The middle was so dark he couldn’t see where he was stepping.

There was a way around, but that would take too long and he was late already. So he stepped onto the path and squinted into the darkness. It looked very dark. One step in front of the other. Just a little further, and then it will start to get lighter.

The boy learned a lot that day. Some lessons are hard, but some say we learn the most from failure.

Now his bike has two wheels and he rides it in another country, far from his childhood home. Would he be where he is now if he hadn’t learned so much playing outside his house?

Courage is really the control of fear. If the boy hadn’t ventured out alone into that dark field, would he have learned about courage?

In his article, “The Decline of Play and the Rise of Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents” in the American Journal of Play (Volume 3, Issue 4, Spring 2011), researcher and Boston College psychology professor Dr. Peter Gray asserts that the decline in play over the past half century has resulted in an increase in anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness among today’s young people.

Play is critical in promoting mental health, Gray contends, because it helps children develop intrinsic interests and competencies; learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; learn to regulate their emotions; make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and experience joy.

Play isn’t just for kids. Play is for people who want to be grown up someday.

What childhood play experiences helped shape the courageous adult you are today?

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