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AAP: Report Defends Benefits of Free, Unstructured Play

Authors criticize social forces that limit children's free time and create burdensome lifestyles

TUESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Children need free and unstructured play to reach important social, emotional and cognitive milestones, manage stress and develop resilience, according to a report released Oct. 9 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Atlanta.

"The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds" reaffirms that a firm grounding in parental love, role modeling and guidance provides children with the most valuable and useful character traits that will prepare them for success. The report emphasizes the benefits of true toys, such as blocks and dolls, that engage children's imagination, and supports a balanced program of academic and extracurricular activities that addresses each child's unique needs.

According to the report, many social forces are robbing children of necessary free time, creating hurried, burdensome lifestyles that cause stress, anxiety and depression. Those forces include changes in family structure, the increasingly competitive college admissions process, federal education policies that have led to reduced recess and physical education in many schools, and an entire industry of products and services that exploit parental desires to produce "super children."

"The challenge for society, schools and parents is to strike the balance that allows all children to reach their potential, without pushing them beyond their personal comfort limits, and while allowing them personal free time," the report states.

More Information -- Report PDF

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