MINNEAPOLIS -- Pediatricians are now writing prescriptions for playtime.
We aren't talking about gym class playtime, but the bubble-blowing, block-building, pillow-bashing, kingdom-of-fairy-dust-and-marshmallows-riding-a-dinosaur-that’s-hugging-a-unicorn type of play.
Dr. Nate Chomilo, a pediatrician at Park Nicollet and medical director of Reach Out and Read Minnesota, will soon be one of those doctors writing prescriptions for play.
“Thirty percent of kindergartens don't have recess, and unstructured play is really important to help kids learn throughout the day,” said Chomilo.
Today, unstructured playtime has been reduced at home as well. Play now competes with more organized activities and screen time.
Chomilo says kids now play 12 hours less per week than they did 30 years ago.
And a new report in the journal Pediatrics doubles down on the research that shows taking away playtime is a bad thing.
In a nutshell, the report lays out why play is not frivolous. It teaches emotional, physical, social boundaries, risk-taking, interest-finding, independence, problem-solving cognitive development that not only builds relationships, skills, and focus, but reduces obesity and cortisol, a stress hormone.
Name any pill that does all that.
The article also cites the platform Reach Out and Read created, where pediatricians give books and discuss the importance of reading during well-child check-ups.
Chomilo is now involved with a pilot project, partnering with Minnesota Children's Museums, but this one is aimed at play.
“Starting at Eastside Family Medicine in St. Paul this month, we are training providers at the one-year visit. Families will get a book that talks about play and the providers will talk about the importance of play and maybe model ways that you can play with your 1-year-old. And then, you will get tickets to go to the children's museum to continue learning about the importance of that child’s directed play,” said Chomilo.
So climb the jib of the pirate ship. Cross the bridge over troubled lava. Make that sand angel for the camera.
It's time, according to science, for kids to take their medicine, and play, more often.