When social competition is becoming increasingly fierce, play is being absent from the childhood of more and more children, and children may pay a heavy price for this.

Children need “playing childhood”, because free play can help cultivate their social skills, creativity, make them smarter, and also help them relieve stress, and cope with setbacks and overcome difficulties in the years to come…

If the child has never played freely

August 1, 1966, was the first day that psychiatrist Stuart Brown became an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. On this day, the 25-year-old Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the tower of the University of Texas at Austin and shot 46 people-no one would have thought that this engineering student, from A sharpshooter retired from the U.S. Navy will become a murderer.

Brown was ordered to participate in the investigation of this major shooting as a psychiatric consultant. Soon after, he conducted a small preliminary study, interviewing 26 murderers in Texas. Brown found that most murderers, including Whitman, have two things in common: they come from violent families and they never played like other children in childhood.

At the time, Brown did not know which of the above two factors was more likely to turn a child into a murderer. In the following 42 years, he interviewed 6,000 people to learn about their childhood lives. Data shows that if children cannot play freely when they are children, they may grow up unhappy and have difficulty adapting to the new environment.

What scientists call “free play” is essential for cultivating children’s social skills, the ability to cope with stress, and the cognitive skills of problem-solving. The study of animal behavior confirms the benefits of play and its evolutionary importance: Fundamentally speaking, play allows animals (including humans) to learn certain skills, which is conducive to survival and reproduction.

Most psychologists believe that even as adults, people will still benefit from the freedom to play in their childhood. However, how much harm will the child suffer if he “has not had enough play” in his childhood? For this, scientists have their own opinions. After all, in the past, almost every child had enough time to play, but now, few children can enjoy the joy of free play.

In 2005, a report in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that from 1981 to 1997, children’s free play time was reduced by a quarter. In order to get their children to a good university, parents sacrificed their children’s play time and arranged a lot of extracurricular activities for them-starting from kindergarten. However, it is just free play that can make children more creative and coordinated.

Many studies support Brown’s point of view: whether humans or animals, if they “do not play enough” in their childhood, the development of social, emotional and cognitive abilities will be affected. Brown and some psychologists worry that not allowing children to play freely may cause them to be unhappy, overly anxious, and poor in social adaptability. Brown believes: “If children don’t play as much as they want, the consequences will be disastrous.” But it is not too late to make up for it: play also contributes to the physical and mental health of adults.

When animals play, their body language indicates that any biting and falling movements are kind and playful. Similarly, play can also teach children to communicate better with others.

As early as 1961, people began to worry that failure to play in childhood might have serious consequences. In that year, the “International Recreation Association” was established in Denmark to protect children’s right to play freely and to promote the importance of free play to the whole society.

At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, as more non-profit organizations were established around the world, the importance of free play received more attention. These organizations call on people to pay attention to the value of play and emphasize the worry about not having fun. These institutions include the Alliance for Childhood, the Association for the Study of Play, and the National Institute for Play established by Brown in Carmel Valley, California.

Freedom is most important

Nowadays, children often play football and scrabble. Why do scientists worry that these games and other games with well-organized and well-organized rules will eat up free play time?

Anthony D. Pellegrini, an educational psychologist at the University of Minnesota in the United States, believes that regular games are of course fun. They can cultivate children’s social skills and enhance their collective cohesion. One of the important channels of experience.

But “the game sets rules in advance, people must abide by them, and there are no rules in play, which can stimulate more creative reactions in children.”

This creativity is important because it can pose more challenges to the developing brain than to follow established rules. In free play, children will use their rich imagination to constantly try new activities and roles.

Free play is initiated and innovated by children. Play may involve fantasy, such as pretending to be a doctor or a princess, and playing house; it may also pretend to fight (mainly boys), holding several children together, fighting, rolling, and constantly changing roles, so that no one will know how Always winners or losers. Free play is very similar to play in the animal kingdom, which also shows that play has an important evolutionary basis.

Gordon M. Burghardt, author of “The Genesis of Animal Play” (The Genesis of Animal Play), spent 18 years carefully observing animals and then giving play Defined: repetitive (an animal touching a novel object cannot be counted as playing), voluntary, and relaxed behavior.

Whether it is an animal or a child, it will not be in the mood to play when it is not full or stressed. The most critical point is that play has no significant function, that is, play itself has no clear purpose.

Role-playing is also a kind of “free play”-this kind of unorganized and imaginative play is both fun and the most challenging for the developing brain.

Face the truth

So how can children benefit from these seemingly meaningless activities? Perhaps the most important point is that playing allows us to acquire strong social skills.

Pellegrini said: “You can learn how to restrain your behavior from your teacher, but you cannot become a strong social man because of this. Only in the process of interacting with your peers will your social skills become stronger and stronger. By interacting with their peers, children will gradually know what is acceptable to everyone and what is unacceptable.”

They will understand that they should interact fairly with their peers and perform role rotations-they cannot always be required to play positive roles such as fairies and queens in order to maintain a long-term good relationship with their peers, otherwise they will soon lose their playmates.

Pellegrini explained, “The children want to keep playing, so they are willing to step back” to meet the demands of others. Children are very interested in these activities. When they encounter setbacks, they will not give up as easily as they encounter math problems-this helps to develop their perseverance and negotiation skills.

Maintaining a good atmosphere also requires certain communication skills-this is perhaps the most important social skill. From this point of view, playing with companions is extremely important.

Studies have shown that the language used by children when playing with their peers is more complex than when playing with adults. Pellegrini believes that in role-playing games, “If children have to mention things that don’t exist in front of them, then they have to use some complex language to express what they want to explain in a way that their partners can understand. The problem”.

When a child hands a fictitious cone-shaped object to a companion and asks: “Vanilla or chocolate?” The companion will have a hard time understanding what this means. He must provide scene clues: “Do you want vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream?” Adults People are different, they can automatically fill in missing information-for children, things become simpler.

If play can cultivate children’s social skills, the inability to play will hinder the improvement of social skills-this has been confirmed by related studies. The Gaozhan Educational Research Foundation of Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA, conducted a study on poor children and children with poor performance.

In 1997, the scientists of the Foundation pointed out in a research report that, compared with kindergartens where teachers are always taught and children cannot play freely, children trained in kindergartens with free play as the dominant content will be better in their future lives. Well adapted to society.

Statistics show that by the age of 23, more than one-third of children who had studied in a teaching kindergarten had committed a felony, while less than one in ten of children who had studied in a play-type kindergarten had committed a felony. In addition, less than 7% of children in play-type kindergartens have been suspended from work when they grow up, while more than a quarter of children in teaching-type kindergartens have grown up.

Animal studies believe that if children are deprived of the right to play freely, they may have poor social skills when they grow up.

In 1999, a study published in “Behavioural Brain Research” showed that in the developmental stage where rats like to play (4 to 5 weeks after birth), they are isolated, and then when they encounter other rats , They are obviously not as active as rats that have not been isolated.

In 2002, a study published in “Developmental Psychobiology” showed that if male rats were quarantined when they were young, they will not behave like normal rats when they are constantly attacked by powerful male rats. Dodge. The reason for these problems is that they are deprived of the right to play, or are they isolated from society?

Another study showed that play can promote the development of higher brain areas related to emotional responses and social learning.

In 2003, scientists published a report stating that playing around can induce the release of neurotrophic factor (neurotrophic factor), a protein that promotes neurogenesis, in these brain regions.

For three and a half days, the researchers allowed 13 rats in the control group to play freely with their companions; at the same time, they isolated the other 14 rats. Researchers observed the brains of the two groups of rats and found that in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and pons of the control group, the concentration of neurotrophic factors was significantly higher than that of the isolation group.

Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University in the United States who participated in this research, said: “I think that play is the main mechanism for the higher brain areas to respond correctly to social activities.”

Release Stress

Studies have shown that play also plays a key role in children’s emotional health. This may be because playing can help them get rid of anxiety and stress smoothly.

In 1984, the “Child and Adolescent Medical Literature” published a report: Researchers observed the performance of 74 three or four-year-old children when they went to kindergarten on the first day, such as whether they would beg their parents to stay and how much sweat their palms sweated. Wait, to assess their anxiety.

The researchers divided the children into anxious and non-anxious types, and randomly divided them into four groups. Half of the children will enter a room full of toys. They can play alone or with their companions for 15 minutes; the remaining children can only sit at a small table alone or with their companions and listen to the teacher telling stories for 15 minutes.

Subsequently, the researchers re-evaluated the children’s anxiety. Children previously considered to be anxious, after playing with toys for 15 minutes, the degree of anxiety relief is twice that of children listening to the story (of course, non-anxious children are less anxious).

Interestingly, children who play alone have a calmer mood than those who play with their peers. Researchers speculate that when children are alone, it is easy to create imaginative play styles, which can make them have more fantasies and help them cope with current difficulties.

Animal studies have also confirmed that play helps to relieve stress-neuroscience, this phenomenon is called “social buffering” (social Buffering).

In a study published in 2008, Stephen Siviy (Stephen Siviy), a neuroscientist at Gettysburg College in the United States, put the rat in a small room alone and placed the collar worn by the cat in front of it. Make it feel anxious. After a while, the researchers took the collar out of the room and eliminated the “cat smell” in the room.

When the rat came to this room for the second time, it became anxious again. This may be because the rat connected the location to the cat. However, when Xiwei and his colleagues put the second rat into this room (this rat has never seen a cat collar before, so it is not afraid), the two rats started to play together, chasing, playing, and beating each other. Noisy. Soon after, the first rat relaxed and calmed down. This shows that play helps to alleviate anxiety in rats.

A study found that children who played with building blocks scored higher on language proficiency tests than children who did not play with building blocks. This may be because children who play with building blocks spend less time on some unhelpful activities (such as watching TV). But anyway, playing with building blocks is always good for children.

Play As A Top Student

The most obvious benefit of play seems to be to relieve stress and cultivate social skills. However, studies have shown that play has a third unexpected effect: it makes children smarter.

In a classic study published in the journal Developmental Psychology in 1973, researchers divided 90 children in kindergarten into three groups.

The first group of children can choose 4 kinds of common objects from a stack of tissues, a screwdriver, a wooden board, and a pile of paper clips to play freely; for the second group of children, the researchers asked them to imitate the staff and use them according to their daily methods. These objects; the third group of children can’t see these daily objects. They sit at the table and draw randomly what they want to draw.

After 10 minutes, the researcher asked the children to tell how to use one of the items. The results showed that the unconventional and creative use methods spoken by free-playing children were three times higher than those of the other two groups, indicating that play helps to cultivate creative thinking.

Playing around can also improve children’s problem-solving skills. In 1989, Pellegrini published an article saying that the more elementary school boys who fight, the better the social problem-solving test.

In the test, the researchers showed the children some pictures. Five of the pictures were about a child trying to get a toy from a partner, and the other five were about a child trying to avoid the reprimand of the mother. The researchers asked the children participating in the test to say as many solutions as possible for each picture. The diversity of the solutions they propose determines their performance. The results showed that children who played more often scored higher.

However, from these studies, how much causality can we infer? Pellegrini questioned this: “What is the role of play? It is the primary mechanism for children to learn new things-only play can acquire various skills? Or is it just that children continue to practice and consolidate various new things? Skill means?” He believes that although no one knows the exact answer, “No matter which possibility is true, play is beneficial to a certain extent.”

So, does not being able to play to the fullest will hinder the development of children’s problem-solving skills? The results of animal studies show that this is possible.

In 1978, in an article published in the journal “Developmental Psychobiology”, researchers used barbed wire to isolate young rats for 20 days (this period is when they are most playful and need to play the most), during which they You can see other rats moving, smell the scent of other rats, and hear the sounds of other rats, but you cannot play with them.

After the quarantine, the researchers trained the quarantined rats and a group of rats that had played freely for 20 days, pulling rubber balls that were in the way to get food. A few days later, the researchers replaced the experimental equipment, and the rats had to push the rubber ball to get food.

The results show that it takes longer for those rats that have been isolated to learn to use new methods to solve problems than for free-playing rats. The author of the article speculates that animals will continue to try new things while playing, while animals that cannot play seldom come into contact with new things, and it is difficult to learn to solve problems flexibly.

In 2007, a study published in the Medical Literature of Children and Adolescents showed that play also seems to contribute to the development of language skills.

In the study, researchers from the University of Washington in the United States gave children between one and a half to two and a half years old in the test group a box of building blocks, while children of the same age in the control group did not have building blocks. These children all come from low- and middle-income families. The researchers asked parents to keep track of how often their children played.

After 6 months, the researchers tested the children’s language ability, and the results showed that the children who played with blocks had significantly better performance than those who did not. However, what researchers are not sure is that the increase in language ability is only due to the children playing with building blocks? After all, while playing with building blocks, their time to participate in unprofitable activities (such as watching TV) is also reduced.

But why does play make children better? Animal researchers believe that play can train children to deal with unexpected situations. Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, believes that “play is like a kaleidoscope,” which is random and creative.

He also believes that fundamentally speaking, play can enhance children’s flexibility and creativity, and when they encounter unexpected situations or are in a new environment, they will have a competitive advantage.

Child psychologists such as David Elkind, an expert on child development at Tuft University in the United States, agree with this view. Elkind believes that play is “a way of learning for children”. “Without play, children will miss many learning opportunities.”

Play As A Top Student

Since play is so important, what will happen if children don’t have enough time to play? Although no one knows the answer, many psychologists are concerned about it. Because play has a certain risk-animals in play are less alert and vulnerable to predators, so play behavior is likely to give animals a certain survival advantage, and it will continue to evolve and continue. Bekov said: “If play is not important, it will not evolve into such a complex form.”

In fact, play has a long evolutionary history. The neocortex is a brain area related to higher-order thinking (such as conscious thinking and decision making). The rats without this brain area can still play normally, which shows that the motivation for play comes from the brainstem. And long before mammalian evolution appeared, the brainstem already existed. Panksaipu presided over related research in 1994. He explained: “This means that the main neural circuits related to play are located in very old brain regions, and they are also passed down from generation to generation in animals through genetics.”

Of course, many parents now believe that they restrict their children from playing freely and allow them to participate in various “valuable” learning activities in order to maximize the benefits of their children. Lethbridge in Alberta, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Alberta, Lethbridge in Alberta, believes that some parents also hesitate whether they should let it go and let their children play by themselves.

They may worry that children may bruise and fracture during slapstick or rough fantasy games. Perlis believes that it is normal for parents to have such intuitions, but such protection of children “is a price. When these children grow up, it is likely that they will have difficulty coping with unexpected complex worlds. If a child has ever played freely After he grows up, he is more likely to cope with unpredictable social environments with ease.”

Parents should make their children truly children-not only because they want them to enjoy the joy of childhood, but also because they do not satisfy their children’s desire to play freely, which may stifle their curiosity and creativity. Elkind warned: “People should re-recognize play. Play should not be seen as the opposite of work, but as a supplement to work. Curiosity, imagination, and creativity are like muscles. “


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