CHESTNUT HILL, MA (March 4, 2013) The importance of playcrucial for children's healthy psychological development and ability to thrive in lifeis woefully underestimated by parents and educators, according to Peter Gray, a Boston College developmental psychologist and author of the new book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books, March 2013: www.FreeToLearnBook.com).
"Playing with other children, away from adults, is how children learn to make their own decisions, control their emotions and impulses, see from others' perspectives, negotiate differences with others, and make friends," says Gray, an expert on the evolution of play and its vital role in child development. "In short, play is how children learn to take control of their lives."
All children are born with an innate curiosity, playfulness, sociability and deep desire to learn, but at some point after they enter school, what was once fun and engaging begins to feel forced, he explains. And, anxiety and stress levels among youths are at an all-time high: they are bogged down with homework, over-scheduled with extracurricular activities, deprived of free play, and faced with the pressures of getting into a top college.
"How did we come to the conclusion that the best way to educate students is to force them into a setting where they are bored, unhappy and anxious?" Gray asks. "Our compulsory education system features forced lessons, standardized tests, and seems specially designed to crush a child's innate and biological drives for learning." The traditional "coercive" school model, he adds, was originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.
Free to Learn outlines the difference between structured play (Little League) and free play (a pickup game of baseball) and emphasizes t
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