By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Doctors have an important reminder for parents with children heading back to school. A new report says play is just as important as eating well and getting enough exercise and it often gets overlooked.

Four-year-old Britton Taunton-Rigby is getting her yearly checkup and after her exam, her pediatrician writes a prescription for something he says is important. It reads “play every day.”

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“Some people say play is a waste of time, well it’s not a waste of time,” said Dr. Michael Yogman of Mount Auburn Hospital.

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all pediatricians do the same. It calls on doctors to write a “prescription for play,” and for parents to help fill the order, saying “play is not frivolous, it is brain building.”

The report says play is a critical part of healthy development, fundamental for learning life skills, helping with language and math, physical and social development and it helps reduce stress.

“Play is really brain-building because it has all kinds of effects on brain structure and function,” said Yogman, the lead author of the report. “Executive function skills, learning to persist on a task, learning to solve problems, of learning to be flexible about how they are learning things, it’s how we learn, not what we learn.”

Yogman authored the report which shows playtime has decreased significantly in the past 15 years, while screen time has increased, and about 30 percent of kindergarten children don’t go out for recess.

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“There is a whole section of our report that talks about the importance of play in preschool settings and how important it is to find a balance of playful learning with the more traditional curriculum,” explained Yogman.

Play can also strengthen the relationship between parents and children.

“We do a lot of outdoor play and at home we have lots of duplos and trains and trucks,” said Britton’s mother, Katherine Taunton-Rigby.

Researchers also recommend getting kids outside more to explore nature as well as introducing them to music, dance and art, which can be playful and educational.