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The Importance of Play

Tim Walsh, The Playmakers on the Importance of Play

Play improves our ability to reason and to understand the world…Play can be a powerful tool for allowing people to develop creative capacity and cognitive health.   -  Harvard Business Review

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father.  - Roger von Oech

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. - Plato

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning. - Diane Ackerman

In play we reveal what kind of people we are.  - Ovid

Play fosters belonging and encourages cooperation. - Stuart Brown

Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity - Kay Redfield  Johnson

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father. -Roger Von Oeech

The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.  - Brian Sutton Smith

Play is the highest form of research.  – Albert Einstein

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play. –John Cleese 

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things. –Plato 

The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children. –Jim Henson 

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. – Fred (Mr.) Rogers

Although under attack from some goal-oriented politicians and parents and often considered superfluous by

school administrators and teachers, free play remains vital to human health and creativity. 

David Elkind, The Power of Play - Learning What Comes Naturally, American Journal of Play 


The intellects above are spot on about the importance of play! ​From building Lego trucks and playing Jenga at a party, play has a unmistakably large influence on our life. Research has shown that play is very important in human development. Kids develop a stronger sense of creativity and inquisitiveness while playing. They also learn negotiating rules as this research summarizes: Game Playing Negotiating Rules and Identities by Ditte Winther-Lindqvist and how to be social as shown in this research: The Function of Play in the Development of the Social Brain by Sergio M. Pellis, Vivien C. Pellis, and Heather C. Bell. Playing will boost academic success: Study: Playing With Your Toddler Can Boost Academic Success and Multi-sensory Learning: Helping Kids Excel Using All 5 Senses. Read about the power of play, how childhood toys inspired architects and their designs HERE


Disturbing Trends: LEGO's most recent report on the status of play says, "There is also a growing disconnect between children and adults when it comes to the styles of play they enjoy and value the most. The benefits of play are often undervalued in our preschool and education systems too, losing out to more formal curricula and learning." Read More...

How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become — from a child development expert

We have summarized many of the benefits of play this article

Recess is vital and needs to be brought back to our schools. There is clear evidence that recess has beneficial effects on the social competence and academic performance of student's as this study by Anthony  D. Pellegrini: The Recess Debate A Disjuncture between Educational Policy and Scientific Research shows. Two more articles making the case include Psychology Today's Better Learning Through Recess, Hands-On Play Switches Minds On by Dr. Scott Eberle and Kids Need Play and Recess. Their Mental Health May Depend on It by Peter DeWitt. 

Play needs to also be brought back to kindergarten! Studies show a focus on play means better performance in academics in later years. Not convinced? Here are a few great reads:

How play is making a comeback in kindergarten classrooms. A Washington state district made an entire school just for kindergartners where joy and play are the focus. By NBC News and Jackie Mader, The Hechinger Report

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland Forget the Common Core, Finland’s youngsters are in charge of determining what happens in the classroom. - The Atlantic

More Play, Please The Perspective of Kindergarten Teachers on Play in the Classroom • Meghan Lynch, American Journal of Play

Finnish Kids Don’t Learn To Read In Kindergarten. They Turn Out Great Anyway. Schools in the Nordic country prioritize play in early education. -Huffington Post

No grammar schools, lots of play: the secrets of Europe’s top education system -The Guardian

Crisis in the Kindergarten - Why Children Need to Play in School - Alliance for Children

No Time To Play In Kindergarten - Education Research Report

The Case for the New Kindergarten: Challenging and Playful - Education Week

How a handful of researchers are trying to save childhood - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Early Childhood Experts: Play Should Top Preschool Agenda - Education Week

Time for Play, Every Day: It's Fun- and Fundamental - Alliance for Childhood

Kids Who Play are Smarter - Kaboom

Meet the New School Board: Board Games Are Back–and They’re Exactly What Your Curriculum Needs - School Library Journal

To Really Learn, Our Children Need the Power of Play The U.S. can learn a big lesson from Finland’s education system: Instead of stress and standardized testing, schools should focus on well-being and joy

Play needs to start early! 

Doctors may Begin Prescribing Play for Young Children - KGTV

The Benefits of Toy Blocks: The Science of Construction Play - Parenting Science

How Babies Learn Through Play - Parents Magazine

What Babies Learn Through Play - Parenting Magazine

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty - American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report

Why Some Kids are AwkwardJordan Peterson

Many of the foundations of learning can learned and/or strengthened through play. This research shows how play support STEM: Building Blocks and Cognitive Building Blocks Playing to Know the World Mathematically by Julie Sarama and Douglas H. Clements and Play as the Learning Medium for Future Scientists, Mathematicians, and Engineers by Doris Bergen. Play can be used to teach writing more effectively: Using Play to Teach Writing by Tom Batt.

Play isn’t just for kids, either. In his TED Talks presentation, Dr. Stuart Brown shows us that play is for all ages, that it does a lot more than just help us exercise our brains. Many corporations have used play to enhance performance and creativity as well as recruit new hires as this study shows: Play and Productivity Enhancing the Creative Climate at Workplace Meetings with Play Cues. There are many benefits for adult play! The Benefits of Play for Adults and  Playing Card Games Promotes Senior Brain Fitness


The lack of play is dangerous! Dr. Stuart Brown's research also discovered that play deprivation is a leading indication for mass murder. Dr. Fraser Brown talks about the dangers of lack of free play for children in the world today and how it affects the individual child as well a society itself in this article: Playwork, Play Deprivation, and Play An Interview with Fraser Brown. Peter Gray's work shows that "use of play helped early humans to overcome the innate tendencies toward aggression and dominance which would have made a cooperative society impossible."

TED Talk by the Play Lady, Pat Rumbaugh

Saving Play -- one playful step at a time -

Free Range Kids!

Check out this fun sketch that drives home the point that kids are safe and need to be outside playing! Lenore Skenazy on the The Daily Show

The Secret Power of the Children’s Picture Book

Even infants get profound cognitive and behavioral benefits from sharing a vivid story

Play can help the economy. Steve Keil's TED talk on how a return to play to revitalize the economy, education and society in Bulgaria: A Manifesto for Play, for Bulgaria and Beyond

Below are articles delving a bit deeper into the benefits of play. 

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds 
Child bonds article

This paper shows that the lack of a play environment within school can be linked to the increase in stress and anxiety in students lifestyle. In addition, feelings of depression, self-criticism, and anxiety start to bubble up. If you want to learn more about the benefits of play in school and what happens when play is taken away, this paper will give the information you need. 

Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play
Make-Believe Play article

This paper shows that play has a major role in developing social and cognitive growth in students. Taking away recess, even as a punishment, has been shown to counter-productive. This paper shows how play benefits students in a learning environment.

Chopsticks and Counting Chips: Do Play and Foundational Skills Need to Compete for the Teacher's Attention in an Early Childhood Classroom?
Chopsticks and Counting Chips article

This study shows how students are becoming less able to come up with imaginary situations. This is due to the increasing tendency for toy producers to create realistic toys. Helping younger students come up with imaginary situations will enrich their play, thus further enhancing their learning. 

Recess: It's Indispensable!
Recess Article

This study shows that the assumption that removing recess entirely will improve test scores is completely wrong in that recess actually helps improve scores. Play helps develop leadership skills, critical thinking skills, and resolution skills. This paper shows how play is a critial component of student development. 

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