Prescription for play

Children should have play time every day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is now urging physicians to talk with families about getting children to play.

“Playing is crucial for learning, stress relief, and brain and skill development,” said Heather Felton, M.D., medical director of the UofL Pediatrics - Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre. “Developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is an opportunity to promote social-emotional, cognitive, language and self-regulation skills. It also can be good exercise and supports formation of safe, stable and nurturing relationships.”

Types of play include:

  • Object play (playing with an object and learning about it)
  • Physical, locomotor or rough-and-tumble play
  • Outdoor
    • Social or pretend

How should play be encouraged?

  • It is so important that doctors may even write an actual prescription for play.
  • Doctors should discuss playing, including smiling back at infants and playing peak-a-boo, at every appointment until a child turns 2.
  • Schools should allow for unstructured playtime, as opposed to purely formal teaching, and include daily recess periods.
  • Avoid electronic devices because they encourage passivity and the consumption of others’ creativity rather than active learning and socially interactive play. Plus, they distract from real play.