Thursday, January 14, 2016

Play Is Being Silenced

I am reading and reflecting on the book The Power of Play by David Elkind.


Introduction


David Elkind starts off his book in a very provocative way: "Children's play–their inborn disposition for curiosity, imagination, and fantasy–is being silenced in the high-tech, commercialized world we have created."

At the beginning of this book, Elkind shows how unstructured play of childhood has been attacked, belittled, and whittled away by organized sports, spectator activities, and the media. This change in play is not just a notable cultural or societal fact. It has serious consequences for children (and by extension society at large).

More children are dealing with health problems; mental and physical health have both suffered. Emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs are not being met. Obesity and attention issues are increasing. The need (and opportunity) for using fantasy, imagination, and creativity is lacking and may even be suppressed. Less recess, less playful teaching practices, more drill, more rote learning methods. These are all creating less healthy, less fit, less creative, less prepared children.


Elkind notes a trend that I have not heard expressed before: an imbalance in our society between needs of children and needs of adults - right now that imbalance favors adults. We choose things that benefit what adults need or want and neglect what children need. (I think this imbalance is what has driven Rae Pica's book, too.) A consequence of this imbalance is the silencing of children's play.

Elkind says that the rest of this book will impart a developmental theory of play and its central role in healthy intellectual, social, and emotional development.

I agree that too often play seems under attack. Parents or administrators or others will ask why time is not being spent on academics rather than play. People will question a more playful approach to teaching and learning. Children struggle with what to do with materials if not expressly told how to use them. I want to know more about using play in intentional, purposeful ways to help children develop in healthy ways.

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