SPICE Skillbuilding Scoop: What Has Happened to Play?

What Has Happened to Play?

Play has changed significantly over the last several years. Remember when you were young? If your mothers were anything like ours, she probably stood in your backyard and yelled down the neighborhood calling you inside for dinner and then would do it again in 3 hours for bed! As children, we were NEVER inside. So what has changed? How is it affecting our children, and how can we as parents support our children better?

What Has Changed?

In the past fifteen years, educators and professionals have made significant strides in the identification, diagnosis and treatment of children who are different learners. However, more children are being diagnosed in schools with not only learning issues but attention and emotional issues that are impacting success in the classroom. 

Mental Statistics from 2017


Predominantly Outdoors Predominantly Indoors
Manipulatives (blocks and puzzles) Electronics
Free Play (Jungle Gyms) Structured/Guided Play (organized sports)
Little Litigation Hyper Litigation (no swings on playgrounds)
Trophies for One Trophies for All
Authoritative Parenting Friendship Parenting
Parent Directed Household Structure Child Directed Household Structure
No Social Media Social Media
Boredom allowed- sparked creative play No Time for boredom- constantly connected
Average of 2 hr. Recess throughout the day Average of 30 minute recess
Creative Play Guided Play
Movement-based play Screen Time
Child dominated play Adult directed play- organized sports
Full Sensory Exploration (barefoot) Limited Sensory Exploration “you’ll get hurt”


How is it affecting our kids?

It used to be believed that the brain was for thinking and the body was for movement. It has now been proven that movement enhances cognition. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that focuses not only on learning but also movement; it has direct neuronal path to areas of the brain involving attention, memory, and spatial perception (ALL areas impact and promote learning). 


  • Allows learners to make mistakes without consequences 
  • Enhances learning
  • Improves ability to handle stress
  • Triggers the release of neurons that boost cognition
  • Enhances social skills, emotional intelligence, and conflict reasoning

Ways to Promote Play:

Outdoors Indoors
Encourage or require daily outdoor play- even if for brief periods of time Build Forts
Hike/Walk your dog Build with block
Jump on the trampoline Play board games
Ride bikes Play cards
Play catch, basketball, wiffle ball Play with play-doh, slime
Hide and seek Hide and seek
Tag Make cookies or bake
Swing Make an obstacle course
Zip-Line Draw- while seated, while laying on stomach, or while laying on back under a table and drawing on paper
Playgrounds Dance parties
Go creeking Yoga
Swim Crafts


In conclusion, schedule play into your child’s day. Any opportunity that you can engage creatively with them will increase and foster development. However, children playing on their own fosters independence and problem-solving. Don’t be afraid of the ‘b’ word. Boredom is beneficial for the brain as boredom sparks creativity. If you would like to read more about play and how it enhances learning, click on the links below. These are the references that were used.