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Grow Your Know – March 2016

The Importance of Play by Renee Miller and Suzanne Dubois

Ready or not, here I come!” I bet you can instantly name which children’s game this phrase comes from!

Hide and seek is a game that has been played for centuries (the first written reference was in the second century). It’s played all over the world, although there are some variations. For example, in India if any of the ‘hiders’ touch the seeker and says ‘Dhappa’, then the seeker has to count again, BUT the seeker has to do it without being seen first! Regardless of cultural differences, children love to play this game.

GYK_HBH boys playing 2Play is important throughout the lifespan of every person’s development; however, it is especially important during the early years of life. Play helps children master their worlds while making gains in physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. They can practice adult roles, conquer their fears, and develop confidence and resiliency. They can rearrange their worlds to make them less boring or less scary through play. Play often happens with other children, but is also valuable when it is between a child and their parent/caregiver—it promotes a healthy attachment and bond that every child needs.

When children are deprived of play, there can be long-term effects on their development. Research shows that children without adequate play have 20% to 30% less brain volume than those with normative play experiences. Additionally, children deprived from play have difficulty with self-regulation and often exhibit defiant behaviors. Children who are at the greatest risk of being deprived of play are those who live in institutional settings, such as orphanages, or live in such extreme poverty that each day is a battle to stay alive.

Every child has a need and a right to play. At Global Hope, we want to children to be in environments where they can flourish. This means working with the right partners who can ensure that the homes and environment where the kids are growing up have adequate play experiences to promote normative development.

GYK_HBH boys playing 1In April, Global Hope will be holding its 6th annual banquet with the theme “The Gift of Play.” We will share more about play and how it influences the care of orphaned and vulnerable children in Romania, India and Kenya. Just as important though, YOU’LL have time to play prior to the dinner and program, be it foosball, Giant jenga, shuffleboard, ping pong, or another game. You owe it to your ongoing development to join in the fun! Make sure you RSVP and put the date on your calendar.

(If you would like to read more about how play influences a child’s development, read “Neuroscience, Play and Brain Development” by JL Frost, or “Evolving a Consilience of Play Definitions: Playfully” by Brian Sutton-Smith. Both papers were resources for this article.)


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