Most studies these days have our kids damned to hell. But not so for researchers at Case Western Reserve University who found that, contrary to popular belief, and in spite of the iPhones and XBoxes, kids are more imaginative today, not less.
In "Changes in Children's Play Over Two Decades," an article in the Creativity Research Journal, psychologists Jessica Dillon and Sandra Russ had their own expectations confounded after analyzing 14 play studies conducted between 1985 and 2008.
Our kids may be busier and have less time for unstructured play. However, it seems their imagination in play and engagement with play activities actually increased. They also showed fewer negative emotions while playing.
Fifth-year doctoral student Dillon was prompted to revisit the data after the 2007 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that children played less.
By using Russ' Affect in Play Scale (APS), researchers evaluated the 'free' play of children between the ages of 6 and 10. The play is videotaped and later scored "for imagination, expression of emotions, actions and storytelling."
The importance of play can't be stressed enough. Kids with 'good play skills' tend to be better at coping, creativity and problem solving. While there is no link between play and intelligence, Russ was concerned about the decrease in negative emotions.
You may think an increase in positive play is a good for play. Yet a little doom and gloom is apparently good for play.
"Past studies have linked negative emotions in play with creativity," said Russ.
Unstructured play is invaluable for emotional and cognitive development, so we should give young children as much time as possible to let their imaginations run wild, and quite simply, to do what kids do best: play.