“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
- Fred Rogers
Educators and researchers know how important free form, kid-organized play is for intellectual and social development and more and more research is coming out all the time confirming this. Below are some links to recent research discussing the importance of play in child development.
“Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Read more about it here at the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Free play is critical for becoming socially adept, coping with stress and building cognitive skills such as problem solving.” Read more about this study here in this article in Scientific American.
“The power of play as the engine of learning in early childhood and as a vital force for young children’s physical, social, and emotional development is beyond question. Children in play-based kindergartens have a double advantage over those who are denied play: they end up equally good or better at reading and other intellectual skills, and they are more likely to become well-adjusted healthy people” Below is a link to the full report of Crisis in the Kindergarten, Why Children Need to Play in School
There are significant challenges to facilitating child-directed play time. One of the biggest challenges I have seen is that some kids are uncomfortable or don’t know what to do on a playdate. With coaching and direction, these kids can grow to manage more free form activities. Success in a structured setting can give them the tools and confidence to thrive in free form social settings.