I attended one of the Walden Forums in December entitled: “Freedom to Learn: The Roles of Free Play and Exploration in Children’s Education and Development. It was given by an expert on play, Peter Gray.

Here are some thoughts I took away from the presentation:

For children, play is crucial for developing emotional competence. Play, in its allowance of cause and effect, develops a child’s flexible instincts .

Self-directed play, play that children create and develop all by themselves, is the foundation of education. True play is not teachable by adults. Free play is where kids control their own lives and develop psychological resilience. It’s where they learn the skills they need to succeed.

The Golden Age of play was the first half of the 20th century when children had plenty of time and opportunity for free play away from adults.

By putting the swing set in the front yard, you create opportunities to create community and neighborhood friendships.

A child’s will, their interest in what they want to learn, do and experience should be the source of their motivation.

Dangerous play – the play that seems on the edge for adults who are watching – creates courage by testing the limits of fear in a child.

The lack of play in a child’s life can create social incompetence and fragility, or a lack of resilience.

Schooling has become more and more a part of children’s daily lives – it takes up time that used to be spent learning through play. For most of human history, education has come through cultural transmission, the learning about all the facts of our culture through exposure and experience with others. It is only in our most recent history that schooling has become increasingly the primary source of education.

Adults still play to learn – adults play for the same reasons children do – it is self-directed, self managed, challenging, fun and instructive. Family vacations are a great place for everyone to play. Families should take vacations with each other families to increase opportunities for everyone to play!

Adults should ask themselves how they played as children – they should compare how they played and how long they played to what their children are doing now.  It is still as important as it used to be.

Author: Gail Ader

Early childhood education is my passion and I have worked in this field since 1998, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. Child centered learning in a supportive and developmentally appropriate setting is the key to high quality programs. As the Executive Director at the Cooperative Learning Community my focus is on supporting my team so that they can focus on their children and families.