What is the point of Play?
Part 3 – Play Supports Emotional Well-
In previous articles we have already acknowledged Play as a key-
Play performs another function though. Thanks to the work of Jaak Panksepp we know that play sits in the primitive limbic system of the child’s brain. Many of the functions of this area of the brain, when activated, create a powerful biochemical response. Positive pro-
So, in essence, when a child plays they produce a series of “feel good” chemicals as powerful as prescription medication. We have all witnessed children so happy and engaged in play that they are quite literally “stoned” on play. This has a huge positive impact on the child’s emotional well-
The problem is that we are not sure how much (if any) of these chemicals a child produces when they are watching a screen or sitting still in a classroom. We know that mental health in children in this country is declining. We know that more and more children of younger and younger age are being prescribed anti-
To add to this, we know that negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger (also based in the limbic system) have their own biochemical response that is not so positive. Bio-
Put simply, when a child is playing, the negative effects of anger, fear and anxiety are lessened allowing children to cope and ultimately thrive. In addition Play helps maintain a positive biochemical environment for growth, development and for healing emotional damage.
As a final interesting piece of bio-
I recently witnessed a child running to his nursery with his hood on his head like Batman. The look of joy on his face was clearly evident as were the high levels of physical activity he was engaging in. The child’s mum then shouted, “Get that off your head you’ll mess your hair up!”
As a society we seem to be prioritising the wrong things in life. Systematically restricting play whilst increasing opportunities for sedentary behaviours through screen time is creating a crisis for our children’s physical health and development. I also believe we are removing a fundamental emotional balancing process leading to a further crisis in mental health, emotional well-
Article by Ben Kingston-
If you feel that you are as passionate about play as we are why not check out our play champions initiative to help us stand up for children’s rights to play. Click here!
Ok and now for the nerds like me…..
We have briefly mentioned the biochemistry of Play so here are just some of the chemicals associated with Play
•Benzodiazepines (brain’s natural Valium)
More coming soon!
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