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The Power of Play – Winter 2019

In January, the CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki broadcast an excellent program called ‘The Power of Play’ that explored the importance of play. The show highlighted the role of play across species in the animal kingdom, and shared the reasons play is critical for healthy development.

The program pointed out that when children have the opportunity to participate in unstructured, self-directed play, they are able to showcase their creativity, develop their imaginations, and build confidence and capacity to assess appropriate risk.

It took a good look at society’s view of children and risky play, noting that, in general, we have become very concerned about risk. We are apprehensive about children taking risks during play that could result even in the most minor of scrapes or bruises. And we have a lot of worry about safety in our communities, which leads many of us to deny our children the freedom to explore their neighbourhoods the way children did even 25 years ago.

As noted on the CBC website: “Risky play in early childhood can help develop a child’s self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning abilities and even risk-management skills.” And Vancouver-based researcher Mariana Brussoni’s work in injury prevention research shows that “engaging in risky play can actually reduce the risk of injury.”

I encourage everyone to watch ‘The Power of Play’ and consider ways to allow children to explore and experience age-appropriate risk. This risk will help to develop children’s critical thinking related to challenges and teach them how best to manage appropriate risk within a play environment.

Joan Arruda