Teenagers and play
Children are playful whatever their age, and older children – including teenagers – need opportunities to play and meet up with their friends. Just like younger children, older children need time, space and freedom to play.
Playing tends to receive much more attention in the early years of children’s lives than in later childhood. This is particularly true of the impact that playing has on children’s development. As playing is mostly associated with very young children, its value for older children is potentially overlooked and dismissed.
Research shows that human brains continue to develop during adolescence. The part of the brain that controls certain functions is more developed in teenagers than in younger children. These functions include reasoning, problem solving, comprehension, impulse-control, creativity and perseverance.
Older children have great potential for learning and creativity. As the reward areas of their brains are particularly active, they seek out new experiences and thrills and their behaviour can be impulsive. Playing can help bridge these two aspects of brain development.
The emphasis on the value of play for younger children can make adults assume that children grow out of playing around the age of 10. However, listening to teenagers, it’s clear this is not true for them.
Older children tell us they particularly value having spaces where they can play and meet up. But they want more of these spaces, and they want to be able to get to them safely. Teenagers say they often feel judged when they play and meet up in their neighbourhoods, with adults assuming they are up to no good.