Does play helps boost brain development in children?

In cultures such as our own, children’s play time is often not taken seriously. However, researchers argue that free-flow play is at the center of humanity across all parts of the world and within ancient civilizations.

According to a scientific study, “playing changes the neural connections in the frontal parts of children’s brains, called the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain helps regulate emotions and aids in problem-solving and planning abilities”, says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain's executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis explained.

On this note, Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who also works with homeless children, has spent a lot of time trying to help young people build tools they’ll need to succeed. For him, a successful child is one who finds something he loves to do, is generous, empathetic and compassionate, committed to repairing the world, shows grit and the ability to collaborate, creativity and can take constructive criticism.

“So many of the things that we care about are completely learned through the creative process,” Ginsberg said at an event hosted by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. When kids are allowed free time to play, they learn how to work in groups, negotiate, share, self-advocate, and make decisions, affirmed the pediatrician.  Also, skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades. In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eight grade was a child's social skills in third grade.

Because of the things mentioned above, we can conclude that, keeping children on rigid, academically driven schedules denies them the space for some of the real self-learning that will see them through unexpected life challenges.

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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LatinAmerican Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez

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