Let kids play — even if it’s not ‘educational’

Children need time to play, even if it’s not educational, argues Alfie Kohn on The Answer Sheet. Play isn’t “children’s work.” It’s just play. And it’s good.

“Play” is being “sneakily redefined,” Kohn writes.

 “Most of the activities set up in ‘choice time’ or ‘center time’ [in early-childhood classrooms] and described as play by some teachers, are in fact teacher-directed and involve little or no free play, imagination, or creativity,” as the Alliance for Childhood’s Ed Miller put it.[2]

. . . The point of play is that it has no point. I didn’t know whether to laugh or shudder when I read this sentence in a national magazine: “Kids need careful adult guidance and instruction before they are able to play in a productive way.” But I will admit that I, too, sometimes catch myself trying to justify play in terms of its usefulness.

It’s a mistake to defend play time by arguing that “play teaches academic skills, advances language development, promotes perspective taking, conflict resolution, the capacity for planning, and so on,” Kohn writes. Play is fun. Get out of the way and let kids do it.

I’m usually not a Kohn fan, but I think he’s got a point here.


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  1. Until McGraw-Hill and Pearson find a way to profit from it, children will be kept inside filing out bubbles on an answer sheet.