Compared to previous generations, today’s children have more homework, more adult-led activities and less free time to just play.
According to psychologist Dr Peter Gray, this is a worrying trend that is having a negative impact on society.
Dr Gray’s research shows that free-play is an important part of child development. It’s where they learn things like courage, creativity and social skills.
In this interview, Dr Gray explains why it’s important for parents to step back and let their kids play, even (and sometimes especially) if it involves risk.
What you’ll learn
- Why Dr Gray decided to specialise in free-play
- His research into The Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, where the children design their own curriculum
- What are the key features in the Sudbury education philosophy?
- Mixing kids of all ages together
- Staff are voted in by the students
- All decisions need to be approved by a committee of students and staff
- About Dr, Gray’s book: Free to learn
- How child-led play helps children develop important life skills
- What are the negative impacts of too much adult-led education and play
- Internal versus external locus of control
About Dr Peter Gray
Peter Gray, Ph.D., is a research professor at Boston College and the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life,
He also writes a popular blog for Psychology Today magazine entitled “Freedom to Learn”: The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning.
Peter has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education.
He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University.
His current research and writing focus primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. He a founding member of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education and a founding board member of the nonprofit Let Grow.
His own play includes not only his research and writing, but also long-distance bicycling, kayaking, back-woods skiing, and vegetable gardening.
Peter lives in Massachusetts with his wife. He has one adult aged son and two adult-aged stepchildren.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peter.gray.3572
- Blog: Psychology Today – Freedom To Learn Blog
- Book: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
Quotes by Dr Peter Gray
“To me, education is whatever it is that you learn that helps you to live a meaningful and satisfying life.”
“When you look closely at what kids are doing when they are ‘just playing’ it becomes increasingly amazing what they are doing and after watching this for a while it becomes not so surprising that they are becoming educated”
“The belief is that if you present an environment where kids truly have to be responsible for themselves then they raise to the occasion and become responsible”
“I think often the ‘problem child’ is the brilliant child”
“You become the kind of person you want to become”
“Our typical public schools try to push everyone through the same square hole, whether you fit or not.“
“Children need play, they NEED play to develop well. It’s not a luxury, it’s not something that we should regard as recess or a break from learning it IS learning.”
“Play away-from-adults is traditionally how children have always learned the most important skills.”
“If adults are always telling you what to do, then you’re not learning how to do it yourself.”
“Dads can be advocates for free play.”
“Dads tend to be a little bit more encouraging of risk-taking.”
“A little girl who climbs a tree higher than her mom would want her to climb, comes down a more courageous person than she was before she climbed.”
“Even in terms of long term protection of the child, it’s important that children have the opportunity to play in risky ways.”
“Our job as parents is not to make that child into something. The job of parenting is for us to learn who that child is.”