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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

The Power of Play

Remember when kids were once shooed out the door to play and told not to return until dinner? In “The Pure Joy of Play: Why Kids Need Unstructured Fun,” writer Ronica A. O’Hara reminisces about those bygone days and presents compelling evidence that free play is so important to children that pediatricians are actually writing prescriptions for it.

I quite fondly remember those days. Despite the fact that my dad was a deeply compulsive and over-protective worrier, he somehow managed to allow us kids to play freely in the neighborhood as long as he knew exactly where to find any of us at any given moment. I’m guessing it helped that Mom, not so much given to worry, was always encouraging us to “get outside and play”.

It didn’t take much encouragement to hit the street. None of us, or any of our friends, wanted to be indoors anyway. Whether rain or shine, our neighborhood was teeming with plenty of kids to play with as well as older siblings to follow around and, somewhat innocently, annoy. Blessed with a cul-de-sac, it was easy on almost any summer day to start a pick-up game of some sort, any of our neighborhood’s favorite activities such as 1-2-3 halt or a few rounds of monkey-at-the-bat.

I remember days when I was blessed with the opportunity to hang out under the biggest willow tree I’ve seen since childhood. It grew on the corner of the cul-de-sac and belonged to Dan and Catherine, an older, childless couple that graciously opened their yard to the entire neighborhood of kids. It was under their tree that we gathered almost daily to scheme about whatever it was we were going to do next.

Catherine was agoraphobic so there was never a time when we couldn’t find comfort and loving care for the occasional bee sting, skinned knee, stubbed toe or even the removal of a wad of gum from our dirty little feet. She was prepared no matter the struggle we brought her way and always had an ample supply of Dixie Cups with Kool- Aid ice cubes for the whole crew to share while we lounged around the yard soaking up the refreshment of the cool, lush and best grass on the street.

I’m so grateful that I grew up in a time that was free from electronics, constant technological distractions and calendars. We knew what time it was when we heard the moms' yelling for kids to come home for lunch or dinner and by looking up to the sky to see where the sun was. Oh, such fond memories of when we hadn’t a care in the world while engaged in the freedom to play.

Such is the power of play. Power, the recurring theme for July, plays out in the power of the vagus nerve, the superhighway that connects the gut-brain axis, the power of forest bathing, which renews mind and body, and the healing power of herbs.

With warm wishes for a powerfully playful and happy summer!


Maisie Raftery, Publisher