Play is serious business

My son's school keeps cutting recess shorter and it doesn't seem right. He is just a kid! Is there any 'value' to recess and play time in school?

Even as the snow starts to fly here in Minnesota and parents are struggling to convince their kids to go outside, I am going to put in my plug for giving our kids more play time. Hopefully, no matter the season, childhood is full of outdoor adventures, neighborhood games, and expeditions into imaginary lands.

Far from simply giving kids time to ‘let loose,' it turns out play is serious business for children. Recent studieshave shown that kids who get activity breaks at school and free time in their day to play and exercise actually do better in school. Besides giving kids time to practice social skills with their peers, active exercise actually increases brain growth and development. Exercise releases brain chemicals in key learning and memory centers of the brain which stimulate the growth of neural networks. At a time when we are asking our kids to perform at peak levels in their school work, we should be giving them all the tools and support to help them succeed – exercise is key.

Play and exercise are of course also key to fighting our current epidemic of overweight and obesity. Helping kids build stronger, more active and fit bodies will only help them succeed at school. I am heartened by the fact that I am seeing more and more families out exercising together. Last night, our local park was crowded with kids and families building snow people, playing tag, and running around in the snow. Even as simple an exercise as walking is healthy for kids. But nothing beats kids just being able to play. So as winter drags on don’t forget to keep visiting your backyard, playground, local gym, or open space – get your kids off the couch, away from the video screens and outside to move and play all year round.

What’s your kids’ favorite playtime activity?