Why play is so important for children's development

National Geographic has teamed up with three partners to create new opportunities for children to play and to highlight the decline in play opportunities. Here’s how you and your kids can take part in the Global Month of Play.

It’s no secret that play boosts learning skills, increases social skills, and even helps alleviate stress. And yet research shows that between 1981 and 1997, children’s playtime decreased by 25 percent. Another survey shows that kids today play about half as much as their parents did.

That’s why National Geographic is at the heart of the first Global Month of Play, a campaign focused on raising awareness of the importance of play. The brainchild of the Real Play Coalition, a four-way partnership between National Geographic, IKEA, the LEGO Foundation, and Unilever’s Persil and Omo, the Global Month of Play involves a worldwide series of activities to engage children in more than 116 countries. The idea expects to touch the lives of 3 million children in 26,000 classrooms, with the hope of prompting teachers and parents to take action and create greater opportunities for play.

The coalition, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, believes that play is vital for a child’s development, linking it to creativity, empathy and self-control.

As the official storytelling and media partner of the Real Play Coalition, National Geographic is creating a series of videos called Play Made Me This Way. The first features National Geographic Explorer Aaron Huey and his son Hawkeye, who at 4 years old, became the youngest photographer to have an image published in National Geographic magazine.