“Play by definition is self-directed and self-controlled. It’s the self-directive aspect that gives it it’s educative power.”
Peter Gray, in The Decline of Play, and the Rise of Mental Disorders
When I tell people our plans to embark on slow, extended travel, the first thing everyone says is, “Yes, you better do it now before your kids start school.”
Jaxon is beginning Kindergarden this year, but we’re not committed to finishing the school year. Once the house sells, we’re starting out on our adventure. Who knows, he might finish the year, or we may leave in the middle. Either way, I think it will be a valuable experience, and I’m not worried about completion. Despite the fact that kindergarden is not required in California (although there is pending legislature to make it mandatory) many people are concerned I’m so willing to pull him out of school.
Research shows what kids need is less school and more play: a truth that resonates instinctively with me. Yet the rally cry from parents and legislators seems to be start sooner, go longer.
In the video I’ve linked below, researcher Peter Gray draws an alarming correlation between the decline in play and the rise in mental disorders in our children since the 1950’s. He also believes depriving our children of play without adult supervision robs them of the chance to develop problems solving skills, empathy and a sense of control over their own lives.
Living in North America, my husband and I often feel misunderstood by others when we don’t constantly intervene if a dispute arises between kids playing. Rather than jumping in and solving it for them, we’ve taught (are teaching, present tense!) our children to ask questions, or tell the other child what they need. We give consistent directives about how to probe into the problem, but try to let the kids utilize that tool on their own. When we do jump in, it’s to help facilitate the children solve the problem: we ask questions, but let the solutions and ideas come from the kids. Typically other parents appreciate this approach after we explain we’re not being passive, but rather intentional with the desired learning outcome. But not always!
What are you thoughts when it comes to children and play? Do you think todays parents’ fears today are irrational or justified?