Chapter 1 - Play, Love, and Work: An Essential Trio
In this first chapter, David Elkind explores the idea that love, play, and work are three drives within each person that, as they interact, power each person. Here's how he defines each of these components--
- "Play is our need to adapt the world to ourselves and create new learning experiences."
- "Loving is our disposition to express our desires, feelings, and emotions."
- Work is our disposition to adapt to the demands of the physical and social worlds."
As I understand it, play is our creative nature, love is our emotional nature, and work is our physical/survival nature. (This is my distilling of the reading.)
David stresses the interplay and interaction of these three components. Play is as crucial a dynamic in development and living as work and love are.
In this chapter, he shows the three components present throughout the life cycle. In early childhood, play is the dominant force. In elementary years, work becomes dominant; learning skills and applying them to the real world are key in early schooling. In adolescence (and the onset of puberty), love dominates. At the end of adolescence, the three establish an equilibrium. In adulthood, the three are more distinct but continue to interact in various combination.
This was a really new thought for me. I followed his explanations and can see how this love-play-work triad is one way to see development.
But I really keyed into some of the things he said about play, especially the dominance and importance of play in these early years. These are two key quotes from the book:
"Play, then, is the dominant and directing mode of learning during this age period, and children learn best through self-created learning experiences."
"Certainly young children can learn the names of numbers and letters and even sight-read a few words. But this is work and should make up only a small part of an overall hands-on, self-directed early childhood curriculum."
It seems in these days, our education leaders want to push young kids more and more into this work mode. Extrapolating from David Elkind's argument, if we push these early learners into "work," we are moving them from the better way for them to learn (play) and undermining their pleasure and enjoyment of learning (love).
I'm still processing this concept of the interaction of play, love, and work. It makes a lot of sense in many ways. I've seen play dominate what young kids are doing. I can see them making applications and developing concepts and connecting what they're doing to real world things (work). I've seen the enjoyment kids have from what they are doing and how they interact with others (love). This is a really interesting idea to me.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this concept plays out in the rest of the book.