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The Health Benefits of Play Time

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

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  • Humans, like most other animals, have a natural play instinct, and this instinct has important benefits. It allows us to fine-tune our motor skills, develop social skills and emotional resilience and learn our limitations, and is essential for normal, healthy brain development
  • The brains of play-deprived rats are underdeveloped in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for impulse control and decision making. They also have disorganized neuronal growth and irregular neuronal cells
  • The replacement of physical play with technological gadgetry has many experts worried, as research shows playing makes people smarter, braver and kinder
  • To qualify as play, the behavior must be done for no apparent reason, be repetitive, sometimes in an exaggerated way, be spontaneous and done when relaxed and not stressed
  • Play has the ability to bridge the gap between wildly differing species. It has a language of its own, and allows us to communicate on a deep, nonverbal level with a whole range of life

If you’re like most, you’re probably not in the habit of scheduling play time, and if you have kids, they’re probably not spending much time playing outdoors with their friends. After watching the DW documentary, “The Power of Play,” you may reconsider these choices. As noted in the video, humans, like most other animals, have a natural play instinct, and this instinct has important benefits.

Far from being a total waste of time, play allows us to fine-tune our motor skills, develop social skills and emotional resilience and learn our limitations, and is actually essential for normal, healthy brain development. In animals, play even boosts their chances of survival. Sadly, the youth of today play nowhere near as much as previous generations. As noted in “The Power of Play,” children now play outdoors half as much as their parents did.


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