Pitner Ortho June 2017

THE STRAIGHT UP

June 2017

LET’S GO FLY A KITE Remembering the Art of Play

Lethbridge inAlberta, Canada. Researchers found that engaging in free play builds connections in the neurons at the front end of the brain. These neurons connect to the executive control center, which regulates emotions, planning, and problem-solving. As a Lethbridge researcher pointed out, “Play is what prepares a young brain for life, love, and even schoolwork.” The National Institute for Play (NIFP) defines play as “something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, and it takes you out of time. The act itself is more important than the outcome.” What this means is, while organized sports are great, soccer and dance practice don’t create new connections in the prefrontal cortex the same way building a blanket fort or inventing a new game does. The benefits of play don’t disappear when we all grow up and get jobs. Though our brains are fully developed around age 25, play is still important. Research fromDr. Stuart Brown of the NIFP shows that when adults continue to let themselves play, they develop stronger social skills, keep their brains sharp, and reinforce stronger bonds with loved ones. Of course,

bout a year ago, I found an abandoned kite on the beach. The kite wasn’t in the best shape, and it looked partially broken, which is probably why someone left it

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“IF THERE’S EVER A SEASON TO EMBRACE THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY, IT’S SUMMER.”

half-buried in the sand, but the state of the kite didn’t deter me. Just seeing it sparked some great childhood memories. Despite the kite’s condition, I got it flying and actually had a lot of fun! As I tugged the kite through the air, I remembered a school project fromwhen I was a kid. My teacher instructed us to build our very own kites. I can still picture my orange kite with a hand-drawn rainbow. Boy, did I love that kite! After I finally had to call it quits with the broken kite I found on the beach, I decided I want to track down a new rainbow kite and take it flying. I haven’t had the opportunity to find my dream kite yet, but if there’s ever a season to embrace the importance of play, it’s summer. There is so much research that shows how important unstructured play is for the brain development of kids. I could probably write a year’s worth of newsletter covers about it! One example comes from the University of

to get these results, adults need to engage in unstructured play, which can be a lot harder. Poker and gambling might be games, but they don’t count as play. Paintball in the woods, board games with friends, and even flying a kite are all examples of play which can help our physical and emotional health. A lot of us have been taught to believe that if we’re not doing something productive, then we’re wasting our time. The truth is, enjoying some time for play is exactly what we need to do if we hope to be productive at all! Appreciating play more is something I think we can all help each other with. Next time you’re in the office, feel free to ask me if I’ve gone out and flown my new kite yet — I’m sure with all my patients holding me accountable, I’ll finally get out there and play again! – Dr. Leslie Pitner

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