By: Krystle Crossman
When you ask a young child what their favorite part about school is, many times you will hear them say, “Recess!” Play time is very important for children especially while their brains are still developing. It is more important in fact than sitting in a classroom. They can learn a lot from playing outside and they get exercise while they are learning. It is a win-win situation that unfortunately a lot of children are not afforded.
Researcher Sergio Pellis states that active play outside changes the neurons that are in the frontal cortex of the brain. This part of the brain controls emotions, problem solving, and plan making skills. If they aren’t allowed to play outdoors and run around, these neurons do not change at all. When they are changed they can completely shift how a child views the world. Pellis says that children need to be encouraged to engage in “free-play”. There are no set rules or time limits. They are able to sit down with a friend and play but while they are playing they are trying to figure out what to do so they won’t be bored. While they are playing games together they will make up their own rules and be accountable for the points that they accumulate. There are so many creative things that children can do and can learn from when they are running around and playing everything.
Researchers from Washington State University have studied the social habits of animals when they are allowed time to just play with other animals of their species. The rats showed that when they are allowed to play with other rats and engage in games of chasing each other around they develop new social skills. They sometimes even make a laughing type sound to communicate that they are having a good time. Jaak Panksepp from the University of Washington said that they found that one-third of the 1,200 different neurons in the brain were significantly changed with just a half hour of creative free play per day. These changes can lead to a better understanding of what is being taught at school.