Gathering Place: Prescription for Play

While most of us see the newly opened Gathering Place (you know, that giant park on Riverside? Can’t miss it) as all play and no work, it’s actually the perfect spot for children to do the work of childhood – unstructured play!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released a report titled “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children.” It may sound crazy, but the five authors of the study recommend that doctors write a prescription for play.

Not only is play good for children, but it’s good for parents, too. The report says playing with parents and peers is necessary for children’s healthy development. The authors write, “developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive.”

Screens, TVs and tablets are not going to build your child’s brain. “Executive function” is the foundation, the brain development, that young children need to be able to learn and to practice the self-control necessary to succeed in school and in life.

Play builds executive function and relieves “toxic stress.” The report emphasizes the importance of parents and children sharing unstructured interactions, what the authors call “harmonious serve and return interactions,” to regulating “the body’s stress response.”

So, if your child’s pediatrician hands you a prescription that says “Play Every Day,” head over to Gathering Place for hours and hours of unstructured play. After all (I can’t resist), it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Categories: Editor’s Blog