Don't Wait for a Doctor to Prescribe Play for Your Kid

Public Domain. Wall Boat

Make unstructured play time a priority now.

A new public service announcement reveals the importance of giving kids free play time. A one-minute video, "Prescription for Play" (embedded below), depicts a sad little boy who's unable to play freely because his parents are busy driving him from one activity to the next, until a doctor writes him a prescription for play. Suddenly his world changes and he's able to have fun while also getting his homework done.

While it's tragic that parents need to be told by a doctor that their kid deserves play time, it's heartening that the medical community is seeing the lack of play as such a serious issue. Past decades have seen a profound shift in the way people parent, from the laissez-faire attitude of the 1960s and '70s, to the more attentive approach of the '80s, the packed schedules of the '90s, the early helicoptering of the 2000s, and now the overbearing, competitive pressure-cooker of the 2010s. Only now are we starting to see the long-term damage this has on kids' wellbeing.

It's no wonder that children are starting to crack under the burden of expectation. They are being molded for success from the moment they wake up till they go to sleep. There is very little empty time to fill with their own entertainment; and when they do get a rare chance, there's a dearth of kids available to play in the neighborhood because they're all being driven around too. This mindset needs to change. From the PSA video:

"Play isn't just fun and games. It's also critical to raising happy and healthy children. Through play, kids learn how to solve problems, manage their emotions, destress, and more. The American Academy of Pediatrics now encourages doctors to write kids prescriptions for play."

Don't wait for a prescription to change your family's busy schedule. Find a way to fit play in now, and you'll all be healthier and happier. I love this description of play's positive effects, taken from the Genius of Play website that produced the PSA:

"[Play] is a daily practice meant to prevent excessive build-up of big emotions that often become overwhelming for kids to express appropriately. Think of it like a balloon that gets filled up with air each day. Play time lets some of that air out so tomorrow when they go to school, the balloon doesn’t burst before the day is over."

Watch video below: