New research tells us what seems intuitive to me as a parent: play is important to learning. A recent New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope reports that “play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades.”
…the brain uses two forms of attention. “Directed” attention allows us to concentrate on work, reading and tests, while “involuntary” attention takes over when we’re distracted by things like running water, crying babies, a beautiful view or a pet that crawls onto our lap.
Directed attention is a limited resource. Long hours in front of a computer or studying for a test can leave us feeling fatigued. But spending time in natural settings appears to activate involuntary attention, giving the brain’s directed attention time to rest.
In addition to the study, publish in Pediatrics, the article quotes Dr. Stuart Brown, the author of the new book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
. Brown calls play “a fundamental biological process,” and says that people who play as children “learn to handle life in a much more resilient and vital way.”
I say, it’s not too late… whether or not you got in enough play time as a child, take some time out to play. You’ll think clearer and be happier. Who needs a study to tell you what you know is true?