Here’s something to socialize: the importance of a “play diet.”

Health

Meet Meg Rosker. When recess was taken away at her son’s school, she did what many moms do…she fought back by creating Let Children Play, a website all about the importance of play in a child’s life. Together with other parents, they are spreading the word about getting out and having fun with your children.

I see you started Let Children Play because recess was taken out of your son’s schedule at Bauder Elementary School. How are they responding to what you have created? Did they put recess back in the schedule?

“I wish I had wonderful news to report on this subject! They had a hard time conceding to including ‘recess’, but they have put in ‘brain breaks’, which are similar. They realized they couldn’t deny that recess gives a child break from the mental realm of learning. With such a break they can later return to their academics a little fresher. I believe ultimately they failed to take seriously the research I presented to them from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.N. Charter on the Rights of a Child. This is truly very sad, as children are missing out on the some of the most important parts of the childhood socialization.”

What kind of play do you find is most important for children?
Well I love it all, but play that allows their inspiration to come to the surface is the most important. Any kind of Play that inspires the child to take on an authority over their own creativity, to maintain authorship of their experience.

Now that we live in a world where technology is everywhere, do you consider play with technology equal to play in parks, where the play is actually physical?
In my opinion they are very different. When we play in the park we use many of our other senses, not just our brain. Technology only engages one part of our experience. Play engages us on many levels- smell, taste, touch, movement and social engagement. Technology only engages our mental experience.

What role does children’s play have in a parents life?
A great deal of a parent’s life becomes mundane with chores, work and responsibility. As adults we have a long list of things we HAVE to do. Children offer a parent a break from this routine. Through the love they have for their children, parents get a new lease on life.. They have a reason to be joyful through the experiences of their children. Without children it can be hard to access that kind of innocent wonder.

How are you using social media to relay the importance of play to other parents and kids?
Our culture has designated play as sort of a side dish, something to do in the one’s spare time, but having no greater significance than something extra. But play is actually pivotal to a child’s development. It is not optional. Through our social media networks, we portray to parents how important play is. It is not just craft time on a rainy day or a way to kill time after school. In order to be imaginative problem solving, kids must play. They learn these skills on the playground and stomping through creeks. We spend a great deal of our time on social media promoting articles about play, research about play and inspirational ideas and activities that we believe will help families get out and about. After all, Life is not all cerebral!

Do you have any specific goals for Let Children Play?
I have many, but here are a few of the most important ones! I would like to honor a child’s rights and needs to express themselves wholly on their terms. That is what play is. I would like to build Let Children Play into a fully collaborative platform in which parents, teachers and advocates can come together to talk about the importance of play and inspire each other to honor the importance of play. We are interested in merging with other blogs and sites in order to build a larger audience and are always recruiting new writers. We are also looking to unite with brands like, Bounty, Shutterfly, Keen, Razor and others, who are invested in the importance of family time and play. I am always on the look out for a company who would ultimately like to merge Let Children Play with a larger platform in order for our very important message to reach millions of parents. This is a message I believe every child and parent must hear in order for the next generation of children to be prepared to lead inspired, happy and successful lives.

How are your kids and their friends responding to your efforts to have more kids play?
Our kids have tons of free play time every day and know that “mommy likes to write so other families and kids go to the park more often and play!” The other families we know love getting behind what we are doing. I think people often feel inspired and relieved when they hear about what I do. Many parents want their children to have more freedom, but are worried about going against the grain of current parenting culture, which is to over schedule and over structure children. I find parents to be very supportive and excited about my efforts.

Have you been teaming up with any other organizations/groups to get the word out about Save Recess?
I have worked hand in hand with KaBoom, a D.C. based nonprofit invested in saving play and Playworks, which helps facilitate recess activities for children, since I started on this path. They are both incredibly supportive of Let Children Play.

The CDC stresses the importance of physical activity for children. How is it possible when so many kids are overweight that schools are taking away recess?
As a culture we have become absolutely obsessed with academic success, forgetting that raising a well-balanced child, who will lead a happy life is not merely about academics. In fact becoming successful often has little to do with academics and much more to do with innovation, inspired thinking and strong interpersonal skills, none of which are taught from a text book. Schools and parents need to get behind educating every aspect of a child, then we will once again be raising healthy, happy kids.

Are there any studies you fall back on to support why play is vital to a child’s development?

U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development
The Serious Need for Play- Scientific American

If you could tell a parent one thing about play for their children, what would it be?
There is only one time of life for a child to play- their childhood. If we take that away from them, when do they have a chance to be innocent? Why would anyone want to rob a child of that innocence, that freedom that we all yearn for for the rest of our lives? It is our responsibility to help our children retain that innocence and freedom of thought as long as possible. If we aren’t doing that, we simply aren’t doing our job of raising our children well.

Do you believe there is a proper “play diet” for kids? Should the play diet differ depending on their age?
Everyone, even adults, should be outside playing/walking/enjoying nature/doing something enjoyable outside for a minimum of an hour a day. When kids are under 10 I believe this should be a minimum of 2 hours a day. This allows a child to get a proper amount of exercise, as well as time to really settle into exploring and getting into that imaginative zone that children often enter when they are fully engaged. Part of a well balanced play diet would also be for parents to not interfere with play. I often see parents following their children around the park/playground, making suggestions about what to play and how to fix problems. This does not in any way help a child. If kids need help or guidance they will ask for it. In the meantime it is our duty to let them develop their own experiences that will inform them about the world. That is how we raise wise children. Children who are lead too much by adults become dependent on the interference and will not be able to fend for themselves when they are older. They will still be looking for their parents or authoritative figures to do things for them, to help them get ahead in the world instead of having the self-reliance and confidence to build a happy, successful for themselves.



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