Brains Need to Play

by | Feb 15, 2016 | #PlayMoreMN

The Importance of Play

“It’s not just superfluous,” says Researcher Jaak Panksepp. “It’s a very valuable thing for childhood development. And we as a culture have to learn to use it properly and have to make sure our kids get plenty of it.”

Play and Social Skills

Although it may seem like such a simple thing, play is integral to childhood development. In fact, play has proved to be an important mechanism in the development of social cues and situations. Panksepp came to the conclusion that play is how we, as social beings, learn how to be social.

Just how basic is our desire to play?

Panksepp conducted a series of experiments with rats to find where in the brain play development lies. After removing the cortex from the brains of young rats, he observed the rats to see if they still wanted to play with others.  His experiments revealed that play exists in a very primeval, vital part of the brain. This is the same part of the brain that houses primitive body functions such as hunger and sleep. Panksepp concluded that play must then be vital for survival, otherwise we wouldn’t have survived and thrived.

With all this evidence promoting the importance of play, it’s saddening that time dedicated to play seems to be disappearing. Panksepp (among others) concluded that the lack of play today is a problem. We agree. At Minnesota Children’s Museum, we want to bridge that gap. We encourage creativity from our visitors. Our exhibits provide the opportunity for social growth through mindful play. Come visit us and give your mind the workout it needs!

Play Under Pressure

Too much screen time. Over-scheduled kids. Helicopter parents. A looming creativity crisis. Freerange parenting. Our society is talking a lot about how our children are growing up – and what we can do to help them succeed in a world that becomes more complex and challenging every day.

We commissioned a survey to gather insights about the role of play in Twin Cities families. The survey asked parents several key questions:

  • How do you see play contributing to your child’s development?
  • Are children playing enough?
  • What factors limit your child’s play time?

Learn more

Learn more about the powers of play, here.

Information compiled from John Poole’s NPR Ed article “Brains at Play.”







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