The Power of Play

by Melissa on August 16, 2010

I know you might be thinking, “Ah! The school year’s approaching! Time to brush up on Math Facts and Spelling!” At Tandem Teaching, we definitely believe there’s a place for that.

But we’re also begging you  to take these last few, carefree days, and use them very wisely. It might be the last opportunity you have for a bit that your child has long periods of uninterrupted play.

Why is this important?

Oh, for so very many reasons that I am unable to list them all here. But I will tell you about a man named Jaak Panksepp, a scientist who’s been studying, in great detail, the effect that play has on the brain. In his great work, Affective Neuroscience, Panksepp has found that “the primal subcortical circuitry that prompts the young of all mammals to romp in rough-and-tumble play seems to have a vital role in a child’s neural growth.”

In plain English, this means that when our boys are wrestling, they’re strengthening their brain.

I’ll say it again, all of the activities that cause us to want to yell, “Stop! You might get hurt!” are actually strengthening their brain pathways. And this, my friends,  increases children’s ability to engage in higher-level critical thinking and problem-solving.

And, get this, Panksepp also found that playfulness instills charisma in people! “Adults, children, and even lab rats are drawn to spend more time with those who have had abundant practice playing,” Panksepp wrote.

Think of the kind of person you’ll be nurturing if you give them the time to play: a critical-thinking, problem-solving charisma-machine!

Now, I ask you, is that child more likely to live a fulfilling life, as a leader, in a place of power? Are they more likely to have the skills to solve some of the real problems we’re facing in the 21st Century? Or will they end up in a joyless job, where they’re just another cog in the machine?

You and I both know the answer.

So, the next time you hear, “I wanna play!” I hope your answer is, “Hop to it!”

Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.