“Purposeful Play” in the Classroom; A Half Step in the Right Direction


“Playing Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Cooking pretend meals in a child-size kitchen. Dancing on the rug, building with blocks and painting on easels. Call it Kindergarten 2.0.” 

Motoko Rich

The New York Times

“Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom”


It made news last week that three school systems were playing with the idea of play in the Kindergarten classroom.  In a New York Times article, “Kindergartens Ringing the Bell for Play Inside the Classroom,” we learned that Maryland, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are  encouraging “purposeful play.”  And what is “purposeful play?  According to the article it is:  “…when teachers subtly guide children to learning goals through games, art and general fun.”  

It's a step in the right direction but it sounds like another version of adult supervised play to me.  As any of you who read my postings know I am an advocate for more "free play."  Why, because, in my opinion, for children, any activity ordered or supervised by an adult constitutes work.  Between school, homework, play dates, organized sports, etc. the average child works, according to my analysis, a 60-hour week.  In other words, kids now live a life once reserved for mid-life adults.

Free play creates emotionally, mentally, physically healthier and smarter children.  As importantly, free play is good for society at large.   Play without purpose (unsupervised play) creates good citizens because it forces children to work out their own problems.  When a group of children decides where out of bounds is they are creating a law.  When a child appears to go out of bounds these same children have to apply the law and make a decision.  When the group determines whether the child was in or out of bounds they have to then determine the punishment.  All of these are the essentials of a democracy.

I am glad that play is returning to the classroom and “purposeful play” is a nice start.  I would feel a lot better, however, if I heard that time was being allocated for non-purposeful play.  That kids were given lots of time to go outside and run as fast as they can, jump as high as possible and scream at the top of their lungs. 





One thought

  1. I guess both types are needed and very beneficial. Thanks for the insightful article Richard as it motivates me to think more about the positive results of free play rather than just a supervised one and the example you have shared makes it very clear.

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