DaughterOne started kindergarten this year and I was so saddened and surprised to hear that there is very little playing in the classroom. They have “special” classes that involve music, gym and library but, from what I understand (and please know I’m getting my information from a child who just turned 5) there is not much playing.


And DaughterOne is desperate for play. She is desperate for peer-on-peer imaginative play. She is desperate for alone imaginative play. And also loves looking at books and having down-time. It is hard to usher her from one activity to another because she stops to play in the middle of everything. Shoes become characters in a play she acts out or utensils or cheerios. Anything! I feel really fortunate that in our school district kindergarten is only a half day program so DaughterOne has the freedom to play the rest of the day.

An article I came across, “The play deficit” by Peter Gray, talks about the pervasive lack of free play in children’s lives today in comparison to children of past generations and juvenile animals.

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries.

This feels true to me. When I was a child, I think played a lot compared to DaughterOne. I played to the point of near boredom but knew that if I expressed any sign of boredom, my mother (wise yet despised for this) would find some tedious chore for me to do as an alternative. I almost never said, “I’m bored,” which so frequently passes through my own children’s lips. I didn’t have the freedom of past generations did or children from more rural areas. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1980’s during the “white van” scares of children being swept away and the time of Zodiac killers. We weren’t permitted out of our own backyard. But we played a lot. And we played in school.

…Playing is learning. At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.

I hope for DaughterOne to have a joyful childhood full of imagination and I sometimes struggle to help her find a balance.

What are your thoughts about the role of play in school vs. home and on current earlier education classroom curriculum? We’d love to hear from you!

Image Credit: Mammasaurus and Reusable Art

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Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Binghamton and a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall Law School. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, creative endeavors, and photographing mushrooms. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), holds a seat on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, and is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance.


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