What Happens When Children Do Not Play

What Happens When Children Do Not Play

What Happens When Children Do Not Play

Stuart Brown, who I call the Father to science of play, started researching the opposite of play- people in prison and found that play had some big reasons why they ended up where they did. This is what he found… What happens when children do NOT play?

Back in 1966 when Brown was a professor at Baylor University, he heard on the radio that there was a mass shooting. A 25 year old marine shot his wife, mother and then went to an observations deck at The University of Texas. It ended with him killing 49 people total. The largest mass murder at that time in the USA. Stuart Brown had been studying the psychology of aggression and his boss wanted him to figure out what made Charles Whitman commit this horrible crime. Brown started studying the life of Whitman. He found out Charles was bipolar and had a history of violence and abuse. His father was an expert in firearms and beat his wife about once a month. Whenever Charles played, his father would beat him. Charles was a good student and waited to be instructed what to do next and never just played. This stood out to Stuart Brown, but this is only one person who showed the signs of extreme violence because he was not able to play as he was growing up. Are there others with this same scenario? He went to the prison to meet more convicted murderers.

Stuart interviewed 26 prisoners and found the same story. They all lacked empathy. They also weren’t able to have “rough and tumble play” when younger. He began to link the two. This is super interesting that when most people hurt someone on a playground, they feel bad and don’t ever want to do that again. So if you are never allowed to interact with others and play this way, you don’t learn to feel bad for others. Could this lack of play be affecting how their brains work and the way they interact with people? Yes. Now they have proven with science that when you are playing, it affects your frontal lobe in your brain. It is very important from 7 months to 5 years that they have play. Even after that it is a very necessary part of being human. They have studied play in animals and brain scans light up when they are playing more than at any other time.

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The moral of the story is to let your children play. Rough and tumble play is where the kids learn what is ok, and when they push it too far. Let them learn as kids about connection and empathy.

This info was found in an article interviewing Stuart Brown on NPR, TED radio hour.

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