Children's playtime

A new study from the University of Montreal has revealed some important findings for understanding children's playtime.

The study's author, Dr. Stephanie Alexander explained that, "Play is an activity that brings pleasure and is purposeless."
The research outlined that for children, playing has no goal. Children perceive playing as an end in itself, an activity that is fun, done alone or with friends, and represents "an opportunity to experience excitement or pleasure, but also to combat boredom, sadness, fear, or loneliness."

The study followed the play activities of children aged between 7 and 11 years living in the Montreal area. The findings revealed that exercise and sporting activities were well-represented with ball-play, bicycling, hockey and baseball. More sedentary play activities were also prominent, including playing with puzzles, knitting, reading, watching movies and playing video games.

Four important dimensions of children's play were identified.

  1. Play as an end in itself: children simply play for fun. They do not set out to play exercise or to develop their mental and social skills.
  2. Play doesn't have to be active. Many children also enjoy playing sedentary games during their playtime.
  3. Children are less likely to enjoy scheduled play activities as they have less time for free, imaginary play.
  4. Children find the element of risk is a pleasurable component of their play.

When sharing her research findings, Alexander explained that although exercise is important in children's lives for their health and physical activity, an over-emphasis on this can impact upon the benefits of play for their development. "Play reframed as a way for improving physical health removes the spontaneity, fun, and freedom in children's play, which is also important for their well-being,"

The study's superviser, Professor Katherine Flohlich went on to explain, "Despite the abundance of messages targeting children and play and health, children's perspectives are rarely taken into account within public health, although they have social and scientific value."