Scientists say unstructured play helps build “a better brain”

Tags: Free Play NPR Playgrounds

Unity Dome inside~1The benefits of free play extend far beyond increasing muscle strength and endurance.

NPR’s “Morning Edition” last week reported a story highlighting scientific evidence that time spent on the playground rivals that of time spent in the classroom when it comes to children’s brain development. There are fundamental changes in the brain’s prefrontal cortex that do not happen unless kids are given the opportunity to just be kids.

The key to producing this type of brain development? Free play! Not just any structured play will do – it is crucial that children are given the freedom to invent their own rules, guidelines, and limits through unstructured free play. Only this way will children use their interactions to learn key problem solving skills that help them determine fairness and social boundaries, all without sacrificing the fun.

Play is productive and it is far from a luxury. In fact – it is a necessity. While many school administrators believe that decreasing playtime and increasing class time will elevate academic performance, the opposite is often true. According to the NPR article, “countries image2where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less.”

It’s been-well documented that outdoor unstructured free play is critical to childhood development. Don’t be afraid to have days where there is no summer camp, soccer practice or piano lesson – embrace them!

Have you helped build a better brain today?

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