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Pediatricians Group: Doctors Should Prescribe Play Time For Kids

BOSTON (CBS) - A new report is recommending kids do something critical for healthy development - play.

The report 'The Power of Play' from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all pediatricians tell children that playing with parents and peers is a critical part of healthy development, fundamental for learning life skills and reducing stress.

Dr. Michael Yogman of Mount Auburn Hospital authored the report which shows playtime has decreased significantly in the past 15 years, while screen time has increased. And about 30 percent of kindergarten children don't go out for recess.

"There is a whole section of our report that talks about the importance of play in preschool settings and how important it is to find a balance of playful learning with the more traditional curriculum," Dr. Yogman told WBZ-TV. "Some people say play is a waste of time. Well it's not a waste of time."

prescription for play
Dr. Michael Yogman's prescription for play. (WBZ-TV)

Four-year-old Britton Taunton-Rigby just saw the doctor for her yearly checkup. After her exam, Yogman wrote her a prescription. It reads, "Play every day!"

"Play is really brain-building because it has all kinds of effects on brain structure and function," he said. "Executive function skills, learning to persist on a task, learning to solve problems, of learning to be flexible about how they are learning things."

Dr. Michael Yogman
Dr. Michael Yogman. (WBZ-TV)

"It's how we learn, not what we learn," Yogman said.

Play can also strengthen the relationship between a parent and a child. That's something Britton's mother says is important for her family, where there are four children.

Britton Taunton-Rigby children playing
Britton Taunton-Rigby plays at her doctor's office. (WBZ-TV)

"We do a lot of outdoor play and at home we have lots of duplos and trains and trucks," Katherine Taunton-Rigby told WBZ.

So parents may be asking - what type of play? The answer really is anything - playing Simon Says, tinkering with kitchen utensils, board games, even exploring the outdoors.

And if you're wondering - why the need for the prescription? Formally writing it down gives it more weight. You have something tangible to take home with you as a reminder and knowing that your doctor is prescribing it much like a medication sends the message that they think it's really important.

You can read the complete report here.

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