Mercedes Schneider cites a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that advances the long-established but recently neglected idea that young children need to play. Play is fundamental to healthy development.

The pediatricians offer a prescription for those have forgotten what “play” is:

The definition of play is elusive. However, there is a growing consensus that it is an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery. Play is voluntary and often has no extrinsic goals; it is fun and often spontaneous. Children are often seen actively engaged in and passionately engrossed in play; this builds executive functioning skills and contributes to school readiness (bored children will not learn well). Play often creates an imaginative private reality, contains elements of make believe, and is nonliteral.

The prescription is intended for children two and younger but Mercedes is surprised that the doctors arbitrarily set this age limit.

She writes:

“I am surprised that the AAP limits its suggestion for the prescription to two-year-olds; the threats to healthy development, including unhealthy exposure of children to digital devices and the test-centric school culture forcing small children into age-inappropriate inactivity in the name of academic achievement demonstrate the need to defend play in the lives of older children, as well.

“I wonder how elementary schools would handle parents showing up with formal, medical prescriptions for children to have one or two hours of unstructured play time each day.

“Regularly-scheduled, unstructured play for young children used to be a given; it was called “recess.” But that was before the survival of districts, schools, and teachers came to depend upon ever-rising test scores.

“For school leaders defending recess for elementary students, I commend you.

“For students in less fortunate school environments: Perhaps a prescription for play might prove useful.”