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May 30, 2024

We Must Protect Play

Play turns out to be stunningly essential in childhood. It’s like love, sunshine and broccoli all juiced together.
– Lenore Skenazy, American author, speaker

Research professor Peter Gray, in a recent article, “The Cruelty of U.S. Kindergarten Practices,” quotes kindergarten teachers who are being required to remove play from children’s days and replace it with rigorous academic seat work. One teacher states:

“Words that have come out of my mouth this fall: ‘We do NOT play in kindergarten. Do not do that again!’ (to a student building a very cool 3D scorpion with the math blocks instead of completing his assigned task to practice addition.) ‘No, I cannot read Pete the Cat to you. We have to do our reading’ (90 minutes of a scripted daily lesson). ‘Those clips (hanging from the ceiling) are for when we do art. No, we cannot do any art. We have to do our reading lesson’ (my kinders get to go to a 40-minute art class once a month). ‘No, you cannot look at the books/play with the toys’ (literacy toys and games). ‘No, we cannot do a science experiment. We have to do our reading.’ ‘No, we cannot color. We have to do our reading.” … I hate my job. Love my kids—hate the curriculum.”

Gray concludes:

“Tragically, we are now even pushing developmentally inappropriate academic training on preschoolers.” He describes how research is showing “quite clearly, that these practices are not just making children miserable in the short term, but are having long-term harmful effects on all aspects of development—social, emotional, academic, and behavioral. We are burning kids out, making them hate school, shaming them about their performance, even before they start what used to be considered real school.”

Exchange Press is committed to publishing articles and books that demonstrate and celebrate the importance of play for preschoolers (and younger elementary students). These authors encourage you to advocate for play:

In Really Seeing Children, Deb Curtis writes, “We want to know what the children think, feel and wonder. We believe that the children will have things to tell each other and us that we have never heard before. We are always listening for a surprise and the birth of a new idea.”

In Adventures in Risky Play, Rusty Keeler writes, “If we mindfully observe what children are doing and intending to do, framed by risk-and-benefit, we offer them a way to grow up experienced and confident.”

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