PLAY: A Four-Letter Word

Posted: April 01, 2013

Okay, so, I know I harp on play. Yet, with all the disparate nomenclature surrounding noncognitive skills, character building, and the plethora of “readiness” inventories, I find it may just all be about a four-letter word: PLAY.

I was reading a 2008 article by Alix Spiegel called “Old Fashioned Play builds Serious Skills.” He notes that today, the word play is associated with toys; but in the nineteenth century, play meant activity. Gee, what a difference a few decades can make.

When play is improvised and regulated by those participating (kids), what happens? It seems kids are practicing self-regulation. They are using their imaginations and creating ideas upon which to innovate. They are using what many call executive functions; planning, problem solving, and reasoning. These are elements that many bemoan are missing today, causing kids to disengage, disconnect, and drop out.

Instead of commercializing, criminalizing, and eliminating this aspect of child and youth development — maybe we should all go outside and play.

Photo courtesy of Camp Pathway, Macon, Georgia