The Link Between Free Play and Success in Life
"Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never grow up"
A few days ago I wrote a blog about my own childhood. I wrote about how first-hand experiences teach unforgettably and how much a child can learn through participating with adults in the running of the home. Far more valuable lessons are learned about life and how to be successful in life through this sort of life. I was so lucky!
When I was in the classroom, I had students who were tired, stressed, bored, unable to think and reason. Who had a hard time being patient and negotiating with their peers. For all the pressure in school to improve, their level of learning did not rise.
And I've had principals who felt that in order to improve scores for the school we needed to reduce recess and free time to nearly nothing. Even PE fell under the ax, as did music, computer lab, math club, etc. Even after school tutoring sessions were added. I taught in an after school session... once. Never again! My kids were exhausted, brain dead, and we made no gains. It was not because the children didn't have the natural ability to learn, it was that they were already missing out on the very experiences that would have helped them learn.
On to the good stuff
I just read an amazing article by Peter Gray called "Children are Suffering a Deficit of Play." Peter Gray is a psychologist and research professor at Boston College. He writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of Free to Learn (2013). I want you to take the time to read what he has to share with us.
And when you have read that, read another article by him called "Give Childhood Back to the Children. He tells the truth, folks.
Before you go, consider making a checklist of activities so you can log the types of activities your child engages in and how much time he or she spent on each type of activity. It might be an encouragement to see how your child is spending his or her time, or it might provide an alert to help you move towards offering more unstructured time in the week.
We all want the very best for our children as we prepare them for life. Ironically, instead of pressuring more and more, we should be letting them play freely more and more.