Play is like fertilizer for brain growth

Stuart Brown states:

While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and ‘nonessential’ subjects like art and music are cut. In many school districts, even recess and physical education have been severely reduced or even eliminated.
The neuroscience of play has shown that this is the wrong approach, especially considering that students today will face work that requires much more initiative and creativity than the rote work this educational approach was designed to prepare them for. In a sense, they are being prepared for twentieth-century work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart – they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.
In fact, Jaak Panksepp suggests that depriving young animals of play might delay or disrupt brain maturation. In particular, his research shows that play reduces the impulsivity normally seen in rats with damage to their brains’ frontal lobes – a type of damage thought to model human attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because it affects executive functions such as self-control. Panksepp has also performed research studies on normal rats, comparing the brains of those that have just had a major play session with the brains [-p.100] of those deprived of it. In both settings, he and his student Nikki Gordon have found evidence that play increases gene expression in the frontal lobe for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein thought to be involved with brain maturation. Without play, Panksepp suggests, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other executive functions may not mature properly.
This research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that “abundant access to rough-and-tumble play” reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontol lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity (and it also is good for those not necessarily prone to ADHD).” (pp.99-100)

Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it.
As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them. And yet learning all the complications of a subject first can be confusing and dispiriting.” (p.101)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Stuart Brown (2009) Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Avery: New York

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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