Everyone, especially children, knows that playing is fun, right? But isn't it just a waste of time? The answer, which is not a surprise to those in Parks & Recreation, is absolutely not!

Everyone, especially children, knows that playing is fun, right? But isn't it just a waste of time? The answer, which is not a surprise to those in Parks & Recreation, is absolutely not!

Does a child develop differently if they have never experienced the motion or feeling of swinging or riding a teeter-totter or a whirl, than a child who has been exposed to those physical feelings? The answer is most definitely yes. These three movements only deal with the human body’s ability to experience and understand the feeling of those movements. The perception of going up and down or around and around cannot be learned without having experienced the actual motion.

What about the feeling, physical and emotional, that a person has when, let’s say, they hit a home run for their team? What if that home run wins the game for the team? What about breaking your own record in a specific sport? What is the personal value to either of those two events?

What about the opposite? What if you lose a tennis match or a round of golf to someone? Have you learned anything, gained anything valuable from the experience? I say yes.

According to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine, free play is essential to proper cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Similar studies published in Pediatrics, the American Journal of Public Health, and The British Medical Journal tell us that play deprivation may contribute to increases in emotional disorders, including depression and anxiety, and that outdoor play is an effective treatment for attention disorders.

Further information from a recent Gallup survey indicated that “[school] principals overwhelmingly believe recess has a positive impact not only on the development of students ‘social skills,’ but also on achievement and learning in the classroom.”

Another recent survey from the Kaiser Family Fund indicates that children spend an average of 7 1/2 hours per day in front of some type of screen (i.g., computer, television, video game). We also know that fewer than 25 percent of school children participate in daily physical activities, and childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed to epidemic proportions. Indeed, the current generation of youth is the first ever expected to live shorter lives than their parents.

What does this all mean? Will a person on trial in the future blame their actions on the fact they did not get to play when they were a child? Will we produce less athletic humans because they did not experience the swinging motion as a child? Will we see more health costs in future generations because they had no playgrounds to use? Will there be a need for a whole new field of medicine dedicated to researching, understanding and treating individuals who have medical, mental, or emotional issues because they did not have the opportunity to experience play?

What do you think?