Play is a cherished part of childhood

Warm summer greetings to the Gaia community, and welcome to all our new parents. I hope that you all had good holidays. These first weeks of the term have gone by so quickly, I can’t believe that we are midway through our 1st term.

During this past holiday I questioned myself as to why the children of today cannot play as freely as I recall myself and my peers doing during our childhood. Children take inspiration for play from the world that surrounds them. One unfortunate effect of this highly technological age is that the children are living in an environment with an easy access to television, computers, cell phones and video games. While visiting family and friends my thoughts about this were reinforced as I witnessed the children in their households, glued to some or other type of screen, passing most of their holiday time in this way. It is this precious irreplaceable time that is given over to screen time, whereas children should be exploring how to play in the garden, spend time with family and friends and learn about themselves. The screens we are exposing our children to, causes them to think in a more mechanical way.

Presenting these screens to our children, whose bodies are generally more vulnerable to stress, adds challenges to their healthy development. These screens can distract caregivers, teachers, and families from attending to the children’s true needs and can exacerbate existing problems. The use of screens in childhood, can also place children at increased risk for repetitive stress injuries, visual strains, obesity and other unhealthy consequences of a sedentary lifestyle. Spending too much time in front of screens also contributes to developmental delays in childrens ability to co-ordinate sensory impression and movement and to make sense of results. This could in turn lead to language delays and other learning problems such as attention problems. The television over-stimulates and consequently and permanently ‘re-wires’ the developing brain.

In my class when I observe the children who are overexposed to technology, I would note that the children often play repetitive games which are inspired from television characters or series, examples of this are that some of the children will act like robots, be speaking very fast and not clearly. These children may also display hyper-activity, lack of focus and concentration.

Play is a cherished part of childhood that offers children important developmental benefits. Play offers parents the opportunity to fully engage with their children. However, multiple forces are interacting to effectively reduce many children’s ability to reap the benefits of play. As we strive to create the optimal developmental milieu for children, it remains that play be included along with academic and social enrichment opportunities and safe environments be made available to all children.

“Steiner viewed technological development quite positively and emphasized that it lies within our control whether such development will be used egotistically for the benefit of certain individuals or groups or responsibly, for the good of all humanity.”

Kind regards

Zoliswa Stimela (Kindergarten)