Most of us have witnessed the fit that takes place when a device runs out of battery or is taken away from a little one. Lately, it seems I see devices in the hands of young children everywhere–at restaurants, in grocery carts, and even during play group gatherings.
No, I do not think devices are evil; we have devices in our home (and we too have experienced those fits.) However, I did begin to question; if young children are spending so much time in front of a screen, when do they have time to play? You know–the imaginative kind of play like making mud pies, playing house, and building towers. I also thought about the preschooler who declares his boredom while pulling on his mother’s hem. Will his mom give him play dough or hand him the nearest device?
I decided to look for some research on the subject. The research confirmed my thoughts; preschool aged children who spend a lot time in front of a screen, tend to struggle academically, have a higher BMI, and are often uncomfortable in social situations. Additionally, these children will likely have a much lower sense of contentment. There are some great academic apps out there today and some amazing computer programs for preschoolers. However, the research tells us that what young children need most is PLAY and lots of it! When a preschooler is playing house with her friend, she is developing her social skills. When she is pretending to take a parent’s restaurant order or check mom or dad out at the grocery store, she is working on her language and math skills. This little one is strengthening both her gross motor and fine motor skills as she is putting on and taking off her dress-up outfit. She is continually developing her problem solving skills as she decides what to play next.
“A survey of 20,000 college sophomores revealed that Harvard and Yale students spent 77% more time at childhood play compared to students from all the other participating universities. ‘Playing at make-believe’ and ‘blocks and Legos’ were the two most frequently cited play activities by the high-achieving and successful men and women at the two Ivy League colleges.” – Newsweek
Researchers agree that play has a purpose!
This post was originally written for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine – Spotlight on Five, posted in March 2014.