This comment on our post "Your Kid Doesn't Need to Specialize" bears re-posting! It comes from a reader named Steve Nations, a father of two in Oak Park, IL, who notes that when he coached his kids’ AYSO soccer teams, "I was always the quietest coach on the sidelines, because I understood that the kids didn’t need some adult yelling at them constantly in order to figure out how to play a simple game like soccer."
He made the point that if you want to create the best 12-year old tennis player possible then it's probably a good idea to have the 10- and 11-year old kids doing drills all day. But if you want to create the best adult tennis player then it's probably best to have the kids doing fun things, even like playing tennis through a tree, so that they have to aim for open spots in the branches. Apparently this is something that Judy Murray does at her tennis camps, and she's the mother of two extremely successful pro tennis players (spoiler alert -- she and her kids are from the UK).
But I don't see why this should be limited to sports. We should be able to generalize this to many other things.
If you want to create the 5th grader who does the best on standardized tests, then you should probably have the 3rd and 4th graders sitting in classrooms all day learning their lessons. But if you want to create the best adults possible then it's pretty clear that those 3rd and 4th graders need to be playing, running around, creating their own games, learning to solve their own problems.
That is what Let Grow co-founder Dr. Peter Gray always says, too: Free play gives kids the skills they need to be happy adults. Here's his TEDx talk, if you need a refresher!
Photo by @benmullins at Unsplash.