It Pays to Play

Play. This one simple, short word is something that many of us can relate to. This is a word that carries sentimental value as well as scientific importance. Many animals, not only humans, love playing. Often, when we reflect on our childhood, we tend to remember a lot of free time where we would go outside and make up games to play. It would be a time fill with joy and a time where we could let go of all our worries and just focus on one thing: play. This was an experience that I have not had in a long time and thanks to our thoughtful AP English teacher as well as the Global School Play Day for letting me relive this and remember what it was like to truly play.

Personally, growing up, I did not play much. When I was living in Vietnam – age 0 through 6 – the only play time I had was during recess (AKA nutritional breaks) in preschool. Otherwise, my day was spent going from one class to the next and from one school to the next. This was the result of my parents’ belief. You see, they didn’t believe in play time. They didn’t believe in me having fun and interacting with other kids. They thought playing and play time was unnecessary, unneeded, and disadvantageous. They thought it was just a stupid way of wasting time. Instead, they believed that the best way for a kid to spend his/her time is by learning and studying. So they enrolled me in numerous of classes and preschool 7 days a week year round, and none of them were recreational classes. However, when I moved to the U.S. was when I started to play more. I played during lunch and recess. I played after school. I played on weekends. In that short few years, that I gotta played before being buried with homework, I always saw play as a way to have fun and destress.

Looking back upon it now, I am able to see that playing was not only fun and relaxing. It helped me in many ways. Playing allowed me to build my social skills and helped with my language/speech development. It forced me to interact with other people. This was especially important to me, since I was an immigrant. As an immigrant, I was way behind with my social skill. The biggest obstacle for me as an immigrant was speaking. My vocabulary was very limited, and I wasn’t very comfortable with speaking English yet. So therefore, my sentences were short, choppy, and incorrect. By playing outside and interacting with others kid, I am building my knowledge of vocabularies. And I get many opportunities to practice them. In fact, scientists have discovered that playing is very beneficial. Play is essential to developing a kid’s communication and social skill. Playing increases a kid’s creativity. It teaches them about teamwork and collaboration. Playing introduces to kids a whole new world of emotions: enthusiasm, frustrations, and anxiousness. And through other’s reaction, the playground teaches the kids which emotion is okay to portray and which one shouldn’t. And obviously, play contributes to developing a kid’s physical health as well as emotional health. Kids also learn decision making skills as well as self-confidence through play.

Even though I do not remember learning all of the things said above, I can confirm its validity by my experience during the Global School Play Day #GSPD2017. During our school’s 3rd annual Global School Play Day, me, my friends, a few strangers as well as Mr. Theriault decided to use this opportunity to go out to the school’s back field and play some football. At first, we were kinda just standing out in the field getting a feel of what we should play. We haven’t play in such a long time that when left to our own free will, we have no idea what to do. We live in a societal system where we are always constantly being told what to do and how to do it, even during practice for sports team. This have lead to our lack of creativity. However, as we threw the ball around for a bit, we came up with the idea to play a game of 2 hand touch. As we played, we were constantly creating new plans and different routes for receiver to run as well as trick plays. At the end of the day, I not only had fun, I also got to talk with and meet new people.

Childhood is turned from a time of freedom to a time of resume building.

– Peter Gray

If play is correlated with so many types of development, If play can help children can become better human beings, and if play is so beneficial, then why is it that the amount time children spend playing nowadays as well as the number of children that get to play uninterrupted is constantly getting lower every year. This is because more and more people are constantly putting more importance on education. By doing this they are disregarding play, an important aspect of childhood and every person’s development. Society is adopting a view where only smart people can become successful. And apparently, the only way to being smart is by drowning kids throat deep in AP classes and homework. Ironically, society is ignoring the fact that intelligence isn’t the only factor that plays a role in having a successful life and career. As the result of this neglection of free play time, a greater number of kids are growing up with less creativity and self confidence while suffering from more depression and anxiety problems.

Society, if they want to create more successful people and happier human beings, should approach this issue from an entirely different perspective. Modern society does not need more school. We have had plenty of school. Kids do not need more homework, more stress, more pressure, more advance classes or more all nighters. Instead they need less school, but better school and more free play time. Schools should be more focused on teaching communication skills, collaboration skills, and thinking creatively and outside the box. Skills that can be learn from both classrooms and playground, which can then be applied to later in life. Schools also need to find a balance between a time of learning and a time of play, a time of learning and a time fun, and a time for pondering and a time for carelessness, so students are not always stressed out.  And schools should not focused so much on grades, classes, academic performance, aptitudes tests, standardized tests, or tests in general because these things cannot and are not capable of describing what a kid is really like. Furthermore, this is not what life is like. Life is not about being able to sit still, learn and retain knowledge like a parrot, and regurgitate it on a test. Life is about being able to communicate and work with others, make new connections, share theory or ideas, come up with new ideas, do things that others haven’t done or doing old things in new and more effective ways. This is how human, as a species, can make progress and advancement. All of the skills needed for a long, happy, and successful life are developed during play time, one of the most important aspect of a person’s childhood.

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