Play is an activity that is fun, done alone or with friends, and it represents an opportunity to experience excitement or pleasure, but also to combat boredom, sadness, fear or loneliness, the findings showed.
“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,” said the study’s first author Stephanie Alexander from the University of Montreal.
“Play is an activity that brings pleasure and is purposeless,” Alexander added.
“Play is a way to achieve various objectives, including the improvement of physical health and the development of cognitive and social aptitudes. Obviously, we must ensure children’s development and combat obesity. But to get there, must we distort play?,” asked Katherine Frohlich, the supervisor of the study from the University of Montreal.
The study involved a photography and interview project with 25 children, aged seven to 11 years.
One 10 year-old-girl loved climbing on a modern art sculpture near her home, for example.
The semi-structured interviews allowed the researchers to better understand the meaning of play for the children.
“Active play alone does not make up many children’s preferences,” Alexander said.
Risk-taking is also an integral part of children’s play preferences, the findings showed.
“An overemphasis on safety may contribute to the emergence of a generation of young people that is less and less able to cope with the unpredictable,” Alexander added.
The study appeared in the journal Qualitative Health Research.