Over the past 50 years, kids have missed out on play. Evolutionary psychologist Dr. Peter Gray points to a decline in free play as the reason for an increase in anxiety and depression, a decline in empathy and rise in narcissism, and a decline in creativity. Kids today spend more of the year in school — five weeks more, on average, than 50 years ago — and more of that day is spent on academics. Most kids have only a few minutes of their school day for self-chosen free play.
Myae Han, Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Jason T. Hustedt, Deborah Drain, Rubie Eubanks, Christina Joe, Imani Lawson, and Annette Pic
The authors examine the relationships between home play and learning— measured by reading and teaching practices at home—among low-income families, including those with mental health issues. Based on a large database from the Family Map Inventory, a screening tool for home visiting programs, the authors’ findings revealed that play-related concerns such as play materials, home play, and the variety of play away from home had significant impact. They conclude that care givers who provide children with more play opportunities both at home and away from home tend to read books with children more frequently and to teach them more basic academic skills. This suggests that early play interactions can contribute to early learning and implies that intervention programs such as Early Head Start and homevisiting programs focusing on play may boost a family’s resilience and add value to existing services.
There is a growing body of research that shows that play contributes greatly to children’s healthy development. In an extensive review of play research, Jeffrey Trawick-Smith of Eastern Connecticut State University, concludes that: Decades of research have shown that play is an important mediator in the physical, social, cognitive, and language development of young children. In spite of this, play faces threats from many directions in modern American life.1 Researchers and others focusing on play agree that children in the U.S. today have fewer opportunities to engage in play than did previous generations.2 This leads to a situation known as “play deprivation” which is associated with a wide range of physical and emotional problems.
Play is at the heart of childhood. Through play, children learn how to collaborate, how to negotiate rules and relationships, and how to imagine and create. They learn to find and solve problems, think flexibly and critically, and communicate effectively. This book, written by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, draws on cross-cultural, empirical research to explore what it means to embrace play as a core part of learning in school. The authors address three questions: Why do educators need a pedagogy of play? What does playful learning in schools look and feel like? and How can educators promote playful learning? The book includes practices and strategies from the classroom to the staffroom, eight pictures of classroom practice from four countries, and 18 tools for teachers, school leaders, and professional development providers to support playful learning across content areas and age groups.
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Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed.
A new theory about early human adaptation suggests that use of "free" self-organized play for children, teens and even among adults is a key element in the development of cooperative social skills. Psychologists suggest that the self-centered actions that led to the current economic collapse may, in part, be symptoms of a society that has replaced what used to be known as "play" with more competitive activities that require a drive to win