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Remembering The Importance of Play

It's Time to Play for Canadian Youth

This article was written by Rhett Vasseur, Event Coordinator, Play On! Calgary 2024, based on research conducted by Jayson Plenos, Event Coordinator, Play On! Edmonton 2024.

In the day and age we live in, there is an increased problem among the youth. Physical activity is becoming less common and is hurting our society.

A 2014 study showed that among children between the ages of ten and eleven only 39 percent of boys and an even lower 10 percent of girls achieved the recommended daily moderate to vigorous physical activity levels.

In prior generations, playing sports and being active was a normal part of life. However, in the last few years, organized sports for children have started to decline.

Studies have been done on this generational decline and theories have been discussed as to why a greater effort into a shift in this trend needs to happen.

One of the summer Event Coordinators for Play On! in Edmonton, Jayson Plenos, recently completed a research paper on the necessity and importance of play amongst youth.

Let us first explore the differences between play and organized sports amongst children today.

Play is inherently different in the way that it emphasizes more creativity and less rigid schedule and rules. This allows children to use their imagination in a much greater capacity.

One great example of this is the contrast between competitive club organized hockey, versus a group of kids who go out on a summer day to play street hockey for a few hours.

The greatest difference between the two is the intrinsic freedom and the creative potential.

In Plenos' research paper, he poses many reasons why adolescents' engagement in physical activity is so crucial.

Plenos states, “Parents should familiarize their children with how to respond to potential stress positively early on, thus encouraging a healthy and resilient mind.” (The Importance of Play on Childhood development, 2023, Page 3)

As mentioned above, stressful situations can arise and we must learn how to deal with them. Plenos presents the idea that active participation can teach young people how to do this in a unique and fun way.

However, due to the downward trend of activity in popularity, there are increasingly less viable options and opportunities for youth who want to be involved.

Plenos highlighted in his paper how important it is to have options available to all people from all backgrounds both financially and socially.

In a 2021 study conducted by Newlove-Delgado et al. it was found that socioeconomically deprived respondents had decreased mental health. Play acts as a distraction from the pressure of life. As such in the case of an event like the pandemic where play is limited, we are gambling with children's mental health. A lack of play worsens situations for the socioeconomically deprived.

With increasingly less opportunities, Play On! Canada is a great option. It prides itself on involving everyone and living an active healthy lifestyle, especially for the younger generation.

For the last twenty years, Play On! has had the mission of growing Canada one game at a time. It has strived to do this by providing street hockey festivals across the country.

These Play On! events fill a need in our country by providing these young people with a safe, affordable, and fun environment. This allows them to get some exercise and learn to work cohesively with their peers.

The emphasis on the importance of play does not mean that everyone needs to be an athlete or in peak physical condition. Rather, Plenos presents some other potential benefits from youth activities.

A study conducted by Yogman et al. in 2018 states that children in play have a lower risk of obesity, potential for higher grades, and are at lower risk for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. (The Importance of Play on Childhood Development, 2023, Page 7)

The essential nature of play among our youth is undeniable. The benefits of Play On! Canada are not only physical, but impact all aspects of a young person’s life. This is perfectly summed up by Plenos’ conclusion in his research.

He said, “In conclusion, play is an influential detail of childhood development, enabling  children to discover and practice new aptitudes, immerse themselves in social interaction, develop a resiliency for stress, and voice themselves creatively.”  (The Importance of Play on Childhood Development, 2023, Page 9)

Plenos uses words, in his article, that dictate perfectly the results that come from participating in community events such as Play On! festivals. It is an essential detail in the development of the character of our young people.

Character development can start anywhere, however, events such as a Play On! festival are a great place to begin. Through Play On! events, youth alike can start building attributes that build new skills, help with stress, and get needed physical activity while you are at it.

To the parents and all other adults who may have concerns or questions, Mr Plenos put it very simply when he said, “It is prominent that children become advantageous and successful in life by being physically and socially involved; the lessons integrated through early play can aid in the children's development and help them tackle the challenges they may face.” (The Importance of Play on Childhood Development, 2023, Page 9)

The study not only reinforces the importance of community events that engage youth, but touch the minds of all. It is a wake up call to support individuals and organizations that provide affordable and needed options of play for the youth.

Let us not forget the power of sport, and the importance of play. Play On! Canada is working diligently in its efforts to return to a community near you next spring.