Join the conversation at the Play Café!

Video description: Welcome to the Play Café – where new reasons and new ways to play are always brewing. Click on the video to hear from Anne, a busy mom who visits the Play Café to spark ideas for her family playtime.

News Listing


ADHD and Play

Animal and human studies are showing that free-play is increasingly important for all children. Activities that involve running, jumping, play fighting and wrestling are especially beneficial to developing the areas of the brain that are deficient in children with ADHD. Physical activity can provide a non-medicinal method to reduce disruptive behavior and facilitate brain development in children diagnosed with ADHD.


Rough and Tumble Play

Play-fighting has been tracked throughout time and throughout a variety of different species, and it must be cooperative as well as competitive. Most play and play-fighting occurs as a juvenile, and, specifically, rats that did not play as a juveniles are less able to cope when confronted with novel, unexpected or disturbing situations. Some species continue to play as adults to calm social discord, reduce stress and test relationships within a social group or with strangers.


Definitions of Play

Play, at least in humans, is not necessarily all-or-none, but can exist in matters of degree. Below defines the characteristics of play:

  • Play is self-chosen and self-directed.
  • Play is intrinsically motivated—means are more valued than ends.
  • Play is guided by mental rules, but the rules leave room for creativity.
  • Play is imaginative.
  • Play is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind.


Evolution of American Playgrounds

Playgrounds originated in Germany with educator Frederick Froebel who expressed the importance of play in child development and established the first kindergarten. In the 1880s, sand gardens were placed throughout Massachusetts creating the first supervised playgrounds in America. At the beginning of the 20th century playgrounds were built in cities around the country, looking similar to playgrounds implemented decades later. Now, in the modern era, playgrounds have expanded to include a variety of spaces and materials often creating a magical and imaginative space for a broad range of people.


Hunter-Gatherers and Play

Hunter-gatherers are egalitarian and autonomous people who live in bands of 20 to 50 people with similarities to modern child play groups.  Productive work needed to sustain life is seen as playful because it’s social, challenging, manageable and flexible.  Hunter-gatherer societies are enjoyable communities to live in within a relatively playful and easy-going society.


Adult Play and Sexual Selection

Play from an evolutionary perspective is enigmatic, but largely explained through natural selection. Play may hone certain characteristics that contribute to survival and reproductive success, and those characteristics are then inherited by future generations. In sexual selection, male animals seek playful females as a signal of youth and health while females seek playful males as a sign of nonaggression.


Technology and Play

Toys, games, and electronic media are merging into a seamless blend of entertainment, information, education and play. Electronic toys and games give children the opportunity to become comfortable with technology and learn to use technology. Electronic toys and games provide children opportunities to be the decision-maker, learn through trial and error, experiment with different ways of learning and thinking, and learn the rules of online etiquette.


Consequences of Play Deprivation

Playtime outside has decreased by 71% in one generation in both the US and the UK. The decrease can be attributed to more homework and class time as achievement standards are increased Read more »