Let the Children Play! Pt. 1

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article recently on what play is really all about, based on the books Free to Learn by Peter Gray, a Boston College research psychologist, and Lenore Skenazy, the author of book and blog Free Range Kids. You know, free range like chickens, I suppose.

Studies have found that children in the USA between ages 9-12 get less than an hour of free play each day, and that is mostly indoors.

This is atrocious and shameful. Let the children go! Let them play, else they will be stunted in their development. Arguably, that which a child learns through play is far more important than that which they learn in a classroom.

They elaborate on 7 key elements of play that are crucial to a child’s development into a successfully-functioning-in-society adult. Many others have discussed these same key benefits of play, your humble author included, but it is worth reiterating because it is so IMPORTANT!

Some key elements of play are crucial to a child’s development into a successfully-functioning-in-society adult.

1. Innovation and Creativity

When kids are in charge, directing their own play, they are in a constant state of creative thinking. They make up stories, events, and characters.

What other childhood activities engender that? What adult activities engender that? Could it be our creativity withers in adulthood due to lack of exercise?

If we want our children to grow up to be creative, innovative thinking adults who can make contributions to all categories of human endeavors – the arts and sciences, engineering and medicine – then play must be encouraged to a greater extent than it is today.

Play must be of the child's creation, as opposed to the mere consumption of content.

2. Cooperation

Though play children learn that certain behaviors work and others don’t. Cheating or other selfish behaviors will drive playmates away, while being mindful of others and how our own behaviors influence and affect them for better or worse will make others want to play with us.

Play develops sensitivity to others as well as to ourselves and how others perceive us. Through this we learn to live and work cooperatively and effectively with others – and we have to if we are to make it in this world.

Life is a team sport.

3. Self Control

Image via

In play situations we learn that tantrums and other unbridled bad behaviors will make others shun us. Play will evoke powerful emotions such as anger or fear, and children gain experience in controlling how these emotions are expressed acceptably in the company of others. They learn to control their anger, not to cry too easily when hurt, or tattle on their peers to adults, etc.

(To be continued.)

Leave a Reply