The “Play Deficit” Discovered by Physicians! Implications for Policy and Practice

Author(s): Doris Bergen

For many years early childhood educators have expressed concerns about the loss of unstructured play time for children [1] and the United Nations identified “The Child’s Right to Play” as one of the rights children should have [2]. Evidence from brain development research shows close parallels between the course of brain development and play development during the early childhood years. Bergen [3] and therapeutic connections between mental health and play experiences also have been stressed [4]. However, this consistent, long-term support by child-oriented organizations, educators, developmental psychologists, and early childhood researchers for children’s right to have freely chosen play experiences has not prevented a gradual loss of play time for most children in this society. Now that pediatricians and other medical personnel also are raising their voices about this concern, perhaps parents, school personnel and the broader society will begin to be concerned about the increasing void of child-directed play time in the lives of many of today’s children and act to restore that important experience.

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