The Power of Play

When designing Seven Arrows’ curriculum, we are constantly referencing and reviewing the latest child development research, how children’s brains work, and particularly, what they need to work best. Because physical activity, social emotional wellness, and academic performance are all interconnected, we prioritize movement in and out of the classroom.

A 2011 article in the American Journal of Play by Peter Gray, psychology professor emeritus at Boston College, states that unscheduled playtime for children has been steadily declining for the last half-century. And when children do have playtime, it’s often a play date or enrichment class. There are a myriad of benefits for both scheduled play dates and enrichment classes – the benefits of which are clearly visible and fairly instant. However, although they are not immediately seen, the benefits of free play are long lasting and necessary for children to develop necessary habits, skills, and behavioral patterns to thrive over the course of their life.

  • PHYSICAL BENEFITS: Play keeps children physically active and encourages them to physically express themselves. A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the most active 9 to 18 year olds in their study proved to remain the most active of their peers later in life.
  • SOCIAL SKILLS: Allowing children the opportunity to engage in play with other children teaches them how to collaborate, predict and respond to others’ movement, interpret others’ desires, share resources, negotiate and resolve conflict.
  • EMOTIONAL HEALTH: In order to entertain themselves during unstructured play, children must be creative, flexible, and learn to embrace adaptation. They are unconsciously learning how to adapt to the multitude of challenges they will face over their lifetime.
  • BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: In an experiment conducted at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta by neuroscientist Sergio Pellis, juvenile rats who were withheld from play with other juvenile rats had a more immature pattern of neurons in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the mammalian brain that regulates executive function – than did rats who had been allowed to play. Pellis believes that play may aid the physical process of human brain maturation – rewiring children’s brains to help them better navigate the world and each other.

For more information about the benefits of play, read more from Time Magazine.