New studies have shown that when it comes to brain development, play time is crucial!

Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada says, “The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain and without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed.”  Pellis explains that it is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems. Therefore, play is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork, he adds. To produce this sort of brain development, children need to engage in plenty of  “free play” with no coaches, no umpires and no rule books.

“Whether it’s rough-and-tumble play or two kids deciding to build a sand castle together, the kids themselves have to negotiate, well, what are we going to do in this game? What are the rules we are going to follow?” Pellis says. The brain builds new circuits in the prefrontal cortex to help it navigate these complex social interactions, he says.

Pellis also adds that the skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades. In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child’s social skills in third grade. Another hint that play matters is that “countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less,” says Pellis.

 

Article from NPR.org. Read full article.

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