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Children should get out and play.|
From youngsters fooling around to adults having a laugh, playing is a fact of human life. However, new findings in animal behaviour show us that play is no laughing matter. In fact, evolutionary biologists believe it’s one of the keys to survival. And, as they’re learning, it’s not just people and pets that play, but reptiles, amphibians and insects, too.
One scholar we’re introduced to is Stuart Brown, a California psychiatrist known as the “grandfather” of play research. Brown recognized play was essential to human nature as far back as 1966, finding that playing freely as a child is key to being mentally healthy as an adult.
There’s evidence play also helps us live better. We join primatologist, Elisabetta Palagi, who’s studying bonobos, our closest living relatives. These primates are renowned for their love of play and their ability to get along peacefully in large, complex groups. Could there be a connection?
Riskier play for safer kids
With all we learn about the importance of play, it’s no wonder that there’s a growing number of experts, like Vancouver researcher Mariana Brussoni, who are pushing for more play for children — specifically, more “risky play.” Brussoni argues that letting our kids engage in freer, outdoor play is one of the best things we can do to keep them safe.
Safeguarding children by encouraging them to take risks may seem counterintuitive, but you may be more convinced after you meet the children at an outdoor daycare centre in Trondheim, Norway. These preschoolers wander into caves, climb onto rocky outcroppings and tumble down hills. Psychologist Ellen Sandseter offers these children as evidence of the emotional benefits of risky play. Her mission is to turn Norwegian playgrounds back into the adventurous spaces they once were.
The Power of Play sheds light on the hidden benefits of doing one of the most fun, and often undervalued, activities: just playing around.