Do your kids need a prescription to play?

In an updated study about children and play from the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors are urging parents to have their children, especially young children, play more because of the lessons that play teaches them.

“We’re recommending that doctors write a prescription for play, because it’s so important,” said pediatrician Michael Yogman, the lead author of the report in a press release. “Play with parents and peers is fundamentally important for developing a suite of 21st century skills, including social, emotional, language and cognitive skills, all needed by the next generation in an economically competitive world that requires collaboration and innovation. The benefits of play cannot really be overstated in terms of mitigating stress, improving academic skills and helping to build the safe, stable and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress and build social-emotional resilience.”

Kyle Scarbrough makes the sound of a firefighter using a firehose as he and his son Alden, 3, and Maggie McCreery, 7, play on the fire truck in the Zilker Playground. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2017

What the study and others like it note is that children are playing less.

Here are some stats this study offers:

  • Children’s playtime has decreased by 25 percent from 1981 to 1997, and we bet that if someone did a current study, it would be even less.
  • About 30 percent of kindergarten children don’t have recess and instead have more academic lessons, says research from Advances in Life Course Research.
  • In a study of 8,950 preschool children and parents, only 51 percent of those children went outside to walk or play once a day with a parent.

RELATED: Kids stop playing by age 9

Part of what has happened is that academics have replaced play at a very young age, and parents don’t know how to play with their children or they are fearful about safety concerns to let their children play.

RELATED: How to play safely

What does play do for kids?

It enhances brain structure and function and promotes that executive function, the study says

When kids play, stress is reduced and kids learn to regulate their stress. One of the things the study found was that preschool children who were anxious about going to school were twice as relieved of their stress when they were able to play with their teacher of fellow students for 15 minutes instead of listening to a story. Kids with disruptive behaviors were also less stressed and disruptive when a teacher played with them one-on-one.

Children who played as preschoolers had a better advantage when it came to paying attention and behaving appropriately in the classroom.

RELATED: Reading, playing with your children could reduce hyperactivity

Preschoolers who were given lessons in early math skills didn’t do any better in math in elementary school.

Play helps kids do what’s called scaffolding: building one skill on top of another skill.

Early learning happens socially. Think about the baby who picks up cues from the mom to smile because the mom smiles.

RELATED: Kids want to play more, but they think video games count

Of course, the study also looked at play in rats and changes in the brain structure of the rats who played and the rats who weren’t allowed to play. “Rats that were raised in experimental toy-filled cages had bigger brains and thicker cerebral cortices and completed mazes more quickly.”

And in kids, the study notes that “Children who were in active play for 1 hour per day were better able to think creatively and multitask.”

Play also helps our children be physically active, be socially aware, learn self-regulation skills, language development, imagination and more.

RELATED: Where are the best playgrounds in Central Texas?

So, parents, get out there and play with your children. Yes, you can put the phone down and they can put down that tablet or gaming device. Also, make sure that your child’s school still has elements of play such as outdoor time or recess.

Zach Theatre is starting a new class for parents and young children to play together called Wee Play. It will be showcased at the open house on Saturday at it’s 1510 Toomey Road location and on Sept. 1 at its 12129 RM 620 N. location.

RSVP FOR THE EVENT HERE https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeph6Az5LLi_Uv5nugwYNEVICfNz1CMZuKYgNACvcat64iHYw/viewform

The open houses are 10 a.m. to noon. Here is the schedule for the day:

10:00 A.M. – Sign Ups for Sample Classes Main Campus begin/All Stations open

10:05 A.M. – Back to School Confidence-Building Activities

  • Want to get your student ready for new situations?  Come try some activities that over time will help your student’s confidence, resilience, and flexibility in a new place.

10:20 – 10:40 AM – 1st Set of Sample Classes

  • 1 yr – Wee Play
  • 3.5 – 5 – Story Drama
  • K – 1st – Broadway Kids
  • 2nd – 3rd – Create a Play
  • 4th – 5th – Improvisation

10:45 A.M. – Confidence-Building Back to School Activities

  • Want to get your student ready for new situations?  Come try some activities that over time will help your student’s confidence, resilience, and flexibility in a new place!

11:00 – 11:20 AM – 2nd Set of Sample Classes

  • 2 yr – Wee Play
  • 3 – 5 – Broadway Babies
  • K – 1st – Act the Story
  • 2nd – 3rd – Musical Theatre
  • 4th – 5th – Acting and Scene Study

11:25 A.M. – Back to School Activities

  • Want to get your student ready for new situations?  Come try some activities that over time will help your student’s confidence, resilience, and flexibility in a new place!

11:40 AM – 12:00 PM – 3rd Set of Sample Classes

  • 1 yr – Wee Play
  • 3 – 5 – Story Drama
  • K – 1st – Broadway Kids
  • 2nd – 3rd – Intro to Acting
  • 4th – 5th – Musical Theatre