July 09, 2014 KaBOOM!

Whistle … Offside, Penalty! Why balanced play wins over hyper-specialization

The 2014 FIFA World Cup final is quickly approaching. Over the last few weeks, world-class players from 32 countries met in Brazil in the hopes of winning one of the most esteemed competitions in sports. For many, watching the World Cup is a family affair and parents may wonder whether it’s a good idea to get their kids involved in sports at an early age. That’s a great idea – running and kicking get legs moving and hearts pumping! Just remember: balanced and active play is essential for kids to thrive.

As David Epstein writes in The New York Times, “we should urge kids to avoid hyper-specialization and instead sample a variety of sports through at least age 12.” At KaBOOM!, we define balanced and active play as developing active minds, active bodies, and being active together to realize all of play’s benefits. Just as a healthy diet balances proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and other nutrients, a balanced “play diet” should include a mix of all kinds of play, because different types have different benefits.

For example, by playing sports like soccer, a child fulfills the active body aspect of balanced and active play and develops teamwork (active together) but there is little development of the child’s mind since rules are imposed. On the other hand, children who engage in unstructured playground and street games tend to build off loosely established rules and invent their own as they go. For instance, part of the appeal of skateboarding is its spirit of invention, imagination, and self-expression – all of which are crucial to the holistic development of a child and fulfilling the active mind aspect of balanced and active play.

Every child should have the opportunity to various forms of play in order to realize all of its benefits. Because play — in all of its forms — is a powerful thing. From addressing obesity, and improving mental health and wellness, to building a creative and successful workforce – balanced and active play lays the foundation for a skilled, healthy, resilient, and successful society.

Tell us how you ensure the kids in your life get the balanced and active play they need to thrive! Leave a comment below.

the new york times, sports, active play, balanced play