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Play Under Pressure
October 1, 2019
Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.
-Fred Rogers

“Play is under pressure right now, as parents and policymakers try to make preschools more like schools. But pretend play is not only important for kids; it’s a crucial part of what makes all humans so smart,” writes leading researcher Alison Gopnik, in an article on the Smithsonian website.

“We found children who were better at pretending could reason better about counterfactuals—they were better at thinking about different possibilities. And thinking about possibilities plays a crucial role in the latest understanding about how children learn. The idea is that children at play are like pint-sized scientists testing theories. They imagine ways the world could work and predict the pattern of data that would follow if their theories were true, and then compare that pattern with the pattern they actually see. Even toddlers turn out to be smarter than we would have thought if we ask them the right questions in the right way.”

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, in an article included in the Exchange Essentials collection, Advocating for Play, also makes the case that children’s play is currently under pressure: “Children today are playing less at home, outdoors, and at school. According to a national Kaiser Family Foundation survey, children in the two- to seven-year-old age group now average about three hours per day in front of screens — time they don't spend in active, child-centered play.”

And in his popular new book, Oh Boy, Francis Wardle describes an important aspect of play that must be honored: how choice can change the way an activity feels to children. “It seems that children have a deep belief that play must be self-chosen. In fact, the research of [Nancy] King discovered that kindergartners considered the same activities to be play if they were self-chosen, and work if they were assigned by the teacher. Many of us have watched a preschooler happily wash dishes in the kitchen sink, only to protest when asked to wash the dishes!”

Source: “Let the Children Play, It’s Good for Them,” by Alison Gopnik, Smithsonianmag.com, July, 2012

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 Comment
Sarker Javed Iqbal · October 02, 2019
Self employed
Dhaka, Bangladesh, Bangladesh

A very serious concern! Play should be a spontaneous activity of a child, not an assigned task. I do agree.

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