My son lives to play; that is all he wants to do. Everything and anything can be a toy. Most times this isn't a problem, but sometimes play has to be cut short to make room for school work, acts of basic hygiene, and the like. A recent study presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference in England further fuels the argument over how much play time is good for kids, and which type of play is the most beneficial.

Four Types of Play Identified

Researchers at the University of Ulster (Northern Ireland) quizzed 505 young adults on their play experiences as children. Additionally, they collected information about their weight, health, and health habits. From this information the researchers identified four types of play with this group: active play, play that involved technology, playing alone, and creative play, and all were linked to a variety of of adult health profiles.

Active Play = Good Health Habits

Participants who had the most creative play time as kids appeared to have a healthy diet and important heart-smart habits such as a regular exercise regimen. The young adults who had the most active play time were in the best health and engaged in the most exercise as adults. However, those who reported having the most restrictions on their play and having the least amount of play time were the most likely to have bad health habits and to be overweight.

Play Patterns Resonate Into Adult Years

According to this study, children's play patterns may have far-reaching implications for establishing healthy exercise and eating habits when they reach adulthood. The study's authors elevated child's play to a right — not just a way to kill time. Specifically, researchers said in a written statement,

"[T]he freedom and opportunity to play is important for all aspects of child development and is a right that is often overlooked."

They acknowledged that playing is something that children want to do, enjoy doing, and that it comes naturally. This is a fact of development that should be given more credence by adults.

The researchers maintain that for all sorts of reasons our society has restricted child play and to remove restrictions and reverse a potentially damaging trend requires a change in attitudes across adult society.

It seems telling a child to "go play" can not only get him out from under foot, but may also be the best thing for his long term health.

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