An essential ingredient has been slowly disappearing from children’s lives: free, spontaneous play.
Many factors have converged to cause the decline of play. Technology absorbs more and more of children’s attention. Schools pile on academic pressures earlier and earlier. And parents are increasingly opting to place their children in structured extracurricular activities.
That makes today’s world much different from the one I grew up in, playing with my three siblings in a huge messy backyard where a bamboo grove served as a fantasy forest where fairies and goblins lived.
It’s no wonder that I chose a profession that lets me sit on the floor with children and parents utilizing play as an effective form of therapy. As a child psychologist, I see growing numbers of young children experiencing challenges with emotional health, including anxiety, restlessness, and challenging behaviors. One reason: children have fewer and fewer chances for spontaneous play, which helps them work the “muscles” of emotional problem solving and build psychological resilience.