As reported in Education Week, Dr. Russ noted, “We knew from talking with children that they didn’t play with toys as much as they used to. So we were surprised by the finding, and we think it’s important.” Dr. Russ went on to note that children who are more imaginative in their play tend to have better coping skills, creativity, and problem solving skills than children who are less imaginative.
Play is an important part of the cognitive and emotional development of young children, and there has been concern from pediatricians and others at the lack of play time available to children, particularly those who live in poverty. These findings that children are using their limited playtime in more creative ways could potentially lessen concerns about reduced opportunities for childhood play.
There was one area of concern raised by the study, however: over the years, the children in the study showed less negative emotion during their playtime. The researchers cautioned that while this might seem to be a positive finding, it actually meant that the children were less likely to use play as a way to work through negative feelings and experiences and that could be harmful to their long-term well-being.