Think back to when you were in grade-school and forced participation in a game of baseball or basketball for PE was the standard. Anyone who can recall this time might also evoke an image of “that kid” (perhaps there was more than one) whose motor skills were awkward, never felt comfortable participating in sports, and who was always picked last for teams. Now multiply that child’s needs by 100, and imagine an entire class of these children. These are kids whose gross motor skills are underdeveloped and who have been diagnosed with a disability. They are like any other kid in that they love to play, laugh, learn, and make friends—they just need an opportunity to do these things at a pace and in a manner appropriate to THEIR challenge. At Adapted Child’s Play (ACP) playtime is celebrated as a FUNdamental item in adapted play and physical education programs. It is also stressed in after-school activities, giving kids the opportunities to develop through play, and meet new friends.
Play should never be underestimated. To the average spectator it may appear to be leisure, but when children fight imaginary monsters, play house, and pretend they are in a spaceship engaged in a risky mission, they are challenging their brains in the following ways:
- Developing crucial life skills
- Preparing for challenges Adulthood brings
- Learning problem-solving skills
- Being introduced to various life roles
- Learning to share
- Developing leadership skills
- Learning to collaborate
- Being exposed to rules and guidelines
- They learn to count and classify
- Enhance their creativity
Without play, humanity would be lost. In a 2015 study in ‘The Journal of School Health’ researchers determined that the amount of playtime in school curriculums across the country has decreased by over 92 percent. The need for after-school programs open to all children is crucial, and it has never been needed as urgently as it is now. Children with disabilities tend to be left behind even more so, and they are in desperate need of structured adapted play so they too may learn, and have fun along the way.
Play is FUNdamental for Development
Psychologist Hirsch-Pasek is a pioneer in the science of play. He states that,
“Unrelenting classroom time may not be the best way to improve learning and test scores. Children learn to count when they are doing hopscotch. They learn about numbers when they’re playing stickball, and believe me they know which team is ahead. They are telling stories on the playground, and they’re getting active”.
Here, we can see how play is a crucial part to child development. Under the right adapted play and physical education programs, playtime can be used as a way to enhance a variety of skills in children with developmental delays, cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, and physical handicaps.
Play is FUNdamental to Longevity
Riding bikes, playing tag, and even rolling through the grass gets children mobile much more than watching cartoons or playing video games. In fact, ‘The American Heart Association’ states that children aged two and older engage in at least one hour of moderate and enjoyable physical play each day. They also stress the evidence that children who benefit from daily play grow into active adults with decreased risks for heart disease and other calamities of a sedentary lifestyle.
In a 2005 study published by the ‘American Journal of Preventative Medicine’ a team of researchers tracked Finnish citizens ages 21 years and older found that those who were the most active when age 9-18 largely remained active later in life. Children, especially those with disabilities who are generally grouped into isolation in standard physical education programs, or who may be included but are not having the same degree of fun as the common child, have souls crying out for a space to play in. They crave challenge, they yearn to explore, and they are eager to showcase their creativity—they just need an outlet allowing them to embrace these things within a modified structured direction that brings the traditional environment to their level so they can be pushed to conquer it and move on to the next one. And by doing this, they will be well on their way to growing into happy, healthy adults.
Play is FUNdamental to Being the Good Guy
Studies prove that play teaches children to “play nice”. According to a 2007 article published in the ‘Early Childhood Education Journal’, playtime can help teach pre-school children to be aware of other people’s feelings, and it teaches them how to regulate their own emotions. Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, a child development psychologist on staff at Temple University, researches the benefits of play and states that, “[play] allows you to wear different hats, to master social rules”, and she continues to talk about what a huge impact playtime has on the development of children. When kids with disabilities are able to partake in adapted play and develop their motor skills by learning how to run, jump, hop, ride a bike, and work in a team, great things happen. Aside from improving their balance and coordination, they are also learning to read the emotional needs of their peers, modulate their own emotions, and set off on an incredible journey towards becoming a happy, well-adjusted adult.
Play is FUNdamental for the Soul’s Eternal Youth
George Bernard Shaw once wrote that, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”. Even the artists of the Victorian era knew play was fundamental to keeping the soul young, happy, and full of life. ACP steps in where traditional schools tend to fail; it provides children with special needs a custom plan for play that harmonizes the soul causing kids to grin ear from ear as they develop into stronger, better-adjusted children who deserve the same opportunities as anyone else. They share the same dreams with other kids in traditional schools, and they can achieve what any other kid is capable of achieving, and in the midst of it all, play is fundamental to their success.