Sunday, March 09, 2008

Play plays a role in Brain Development

There has been an unfortuante trend in many elementary and middle schools. In order to get some additional study and class time in for high stakes testing, some schools have adopted a 'no recess' policy. Perhaps as high as 30% of kindergarten classes no longer have recess. This is unfortunate, particularly for young children. Most kids likely find recess to be a positive part of the day, and it is also a chance for younger children to get some of their energy out, so they may actually focus better in class, rather than sit their fidgeting. But there is another reason why unregulated play is a positive experience during the school day: it leads to better brain development.

The Drs. Eide have a post about the benefits of play for the brain. Play helps increase blood flow to the dentate gyrus in the brain, which plays (no pun intended) a role in memory and feelings of happiness. Play also has an effect on physical development and the development of the cerebellum. The good news for older people is that there is evidence that play and exercise continue to be beneficial to brain development over a lifetime, where memory appears to be better for those who play and exercise, and that the chances of dimentia decrease. I hope school leaders and boards of education around the country become educated in studies such as these, for this is an easy thing to provide children every day.


David said...

Worth noting is that roleplay is common in children's play. I recently heard a radio peice about how children learn how to impose social restrictions and norms on themselves when pretending to be a role (eg. they pay and sit quitely when pretending to go for bus trips). This play developes quite directly into impulse control and helps teach children what is appoproiate behavoir in different situations. A major problem in older children and teens with behavior problems is that they do not realize that though you can act one way in some situations (liek with your friends), you can't always act that way elsewhere (like in class or work). So play is not only important for physical brain developement and letting of steam, but also for social and emotional developement. Of course, it's also important for the sake of itself. Playing is fun,and what is life without joy?

p.s. Happy pi day!

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