Resurrecting Free Play in Young Children: Looking Beyond Fitness and Fatness to Attention, Affiliation, and Affect

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate why play, and particularly active, unstructured, outdoor play, needs to be restored in children’s lives. We propose that efforts to increase physical activity in young children might be more successful if physical activity is promoted using different language—encouraging play—and if a different set of outcomes are emphasized—aspects of child well-being other than physical health. Because most physical activity in pre-schoolers is equivalent to gross motor play, we suggest that the term “play” be used to encourage movement in pre-schoolers. The benefits of play on children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development are explored.

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