With so many years ahead of them to attend school, university and then work shouldn't we allow our children time to play before the commitments of the world fall upon their shoulders? According to The LEGO Foundation we absolutely should.
The charity headed by the Danish toy manufacturer is campaigning to raise awareness of the importance of children's playtime, explaining how eliminating it from their daily lives could actually hinder their creative development.
According to the foundation's website play helps to develop skills like empathy, communication, problem-solving, creativity and teamwork.
The foundation notes that play is essential to equip children for the challenges that they will face later in life. Even so playtime is being overlooked.
"Over the past half century there has been a sharp decline in how much children play. In addition, there is a widespread lack of understanding of the impact and benefits of play and making play a natural part of the learning process," the foundation states.
Head of The LEGO Foundation, Hanne Rasmussen, commented on how the knowledge-based education system in the U.K. has reduced the importance of play.
"Both in the formal education system and in the homes of children, the focus on the value of play is rather limited," Rasmussen said. "This is why the foundation hopes to improve "the understanding of the value of play and what play can really do."
Rasmussen used her own childhood as an example as she reflected on growing up without constant schedules and planning.
"We had more room to actually engage and keep ourselves entertained and we learned through that and we grew in many different ways through that," she said of her childhood in Denmark in the 1970s.
"All over the world, we see parents spending much energy doing the best for their child, and play is not on that list because they don't have the background to understand what it could do," she continued.
Rasmussen believes that, in contrast with the current U.K. education system, a "play-based methodology makes a lot of sense" in children up to around eight years old. She also cites research from New Zealand which suggests that early formal literacy lessons do not make children better readers by the age of 11 and could even put them off reading altogether. This suggests that the British education system, which dictates that children start formal schooling by the age of five, may not be getting it completely right.
The biggest problem is not that parents don't want the best for their children. In fact it's quite the opposite. Parents want their children to succeed, to get a good job, to thrive and stand out in an increasingly competitive world with a rapidly changing economic climate. Because of all these factors, it can be easy to forget that sometimes children need to engage in hands-on activities. It's not about rejecting knowledge-based content. It's about finding a balance.
If you want to know more, the LEGO website offers parents helpful information on how to help your child learn through play and The LEGO Foundation's site provides readers with information on their play-based learning programmes.
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