Follow Jane Facebook
Apr 1, 2024

It’s Child’s Play

Sponsored Content provided by Jane Morrow - Executive Director, Smart Start of New Hanover County

When conducting your next job interview, one question you may want to add is “How much did you play as a young child?”
The implications of what science is discovering about the importance of free play for children’s brain development are important for growing businesses.  If we want colleagues and employees who are creative, team players, get along well in social situations, able to regulate their emotions, can think on their feet, have good risk perception, strong communication skills, and a keen sense of what is possible, then we want folk who had a lot of opportunities for self-directed play as children. 
Science has long studied play in mammals, including humans, and have learned that not only are our brains hard wired to play, but we also have a “play center” deep within our midbrain that makes play an instinctual response.  But why?  Play time uses lots of energy and other resources so there must be some benefits.
Earlier hypnoses about play thought of play as practice for the skills and behaviors mammals would need in adulthood.  But we know that the play we engage in as children may or may not mimic what our life’s work will be 20-30 years in the future.  Especially as technology keeps evolving.  So, it can’t be just practice.
Scientists now think of play as training for the unexpected; play as learning to learn.   
Play builds a diverse and responsive repertoire of behaviors.  Play gives us mental suppleness and a broad behavioral vocabulary.  We as children do a lot of different things when we play.  We study, experiment, dream, use our imaginations and creativity.  We talk with playmates and adults, we create or co-create rules and guidelines, we resolve conflicts, develop empathy, and learn to manage emotions.  We jump and run, we sort and stack, we use big muscles and small muscles.  We take delight in playing and so we keep at it and also learn persistence and perseverance.  Because true play is fun, we are happy to spend the time doing the things that are needed to build our brains and develop our executive functioning skills. 
All of this play literally builds our brains.  It is the most efficient way for a young child to form neural connections, and later, to prune them for greater brain efficiency.  Play is such an effective way to build a brain because play is self-motivated.  Play that is child-driven is completely intrinsic.  We engage when we want. We can quit if we want.  The rules are of our own devising.  This creates possibilities for experimentation, risk-taking, going forward even if the outcome is unknown. That, in turn, helps children learn to trust themselves and leads to self-reliant and confident adults.  
Smart Start of New Hanover County works in partnership with parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help them support children’s play in order to promote healthy child development. We are there to help caregivers know the how’s and the whys of play because children deprived of play or only engage in activities whose structure, format, and rules imposed from the outside can become depressed, inflexible, and lose empathy and impulse control.   We can’t know the future or what skills a child may need later in life.  Even if we wanted to, our efforts would be misplaced if we designed play for children or made play too limited, too inflexible, too constrained.  We can’t substitute learning specific skills or behaviors or knowledge for play.  We can’t skip that step or leapfrog over play.
What sort of play did you do as a young child that helped prepare you for your current job?

Smart Start of New Hanover County is our local hub for early childhood – the first 2,000 days of a child’s life.  We work with early educators to enhance quality, we assist with the cost of childcare by supporting the local childcare subsidy program, and we work with families to strengthen their ability to support their children’s development. Connect with us to learn more about why early childhood matters, why it is important for your business both today and in the future, and to learn how you can advocate for investment in the early years.

Ico insights


Web awstaffpic2020 1 132245438

The 2024 Luncheon for Literacy featuring Special Guest Jason Mott

Alesha Edison Westbrook - Cape Fear Literacy Council
Unknown 7112393341

Why Feasibility is Paramount to Success

Holly Segur - Lead Intuitively – Corporate Coaching
2022052 75 142344351

Bridging Futures: The Case for Toll Funding in Wilmington’s Cape Fear Memorial Bridge Revamp

Natalie English - Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Trending News

Riverlights Could Add 73 More Townhomes To Mix, Site Plans Show

Staff Reports - Apr 18, 2024

Game Over For Michael Jordan Museum At Project Grace

Audrey Elsberry - Apr 19, 2024

City Approvals Push Forward Plans For Former Wilmington Fire Stations

Emma Dill - Apr 17, 2024

Surf City Embarks On Park’s Construction

Cece Nunn - Apr 19, 2024

Taking Marine Science On The Road

Lynda Van Kuren - Apr 19, 2024

In The Current Issue

With Coffee And Cocktails, Owners Mix It Up

Baristas are incorporating craft cocktail techniques into show-stopping coffee drinks, and bartenders are mixing espresso and coffee liqueur...

Funding A Food Oasis: Long-awaited Grocery Store Gains Momentum

With millions in committed funding from New Hanover County and the New Hanover Community Endowment, along with a land donation from the city...

Taking Marine Science On The Road

“My mission and my goal is to take my love of marine science, marine ecosystem and coastal ecosystems and bring that to students and teacher...

Book On Business

The 2024 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!



2024 Power Breakfast: The Next Season