Just unearthed this genius essay by Erika and Nicholas Christakis from their time at Harvard when they were already noticing a troubling trend. Erika is author of The Importance of Being Little, and former faculty member of the Yale Child Study Center. Nicholas is a sociologist/MD, Yale professor, director of Yale's Human Nature Lab and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. The Christakises were vilified a few years back for suggesting that students can handle their own interactions (and Halloween costume decisions) without so much direction from adults.
Want to get your kids into college? Let them play, by Erika and Nicholas Christakis
Every day where we work, we see our young students struggling with the transition from home to school. They're all wonderful kids, but some can't share easily or listen in a group.
Some have impulse control problems and have trouble keeping their hands to themselves; others don't always see that actions have consequences; a few suffer terribly from separation anxiety.
We're not talking about preschool children. These are Harvard undergraduate students whom we teach and advise. They all know how to work, but some of them haven't learned how to play.
While the article goes on to endorse play-based early ed, they also believe that kids need to KEEP playing throughout childhood, to develop the soft, non-robot skills they will need to succeed:
In fact, we wonder why play is not encouraged in educational periods later in the developmental life of young people -- giving kids more practice as they get closer to the ages of our students.
Why do this? One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and -- relatedly -- who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn.
Through play, children learn to take turns, delay gratification, negotiate conflicts, solve problems, share goals, acquire flexibility, and live with disappointment.
Is there a way to get kids to play more and learn all those skills? Yes. Keep schools open for After School Free Play. That's what 7 Long Island schools are piloting RIGHT NOW. Here's our 4 minute video about it, and a one-pager that explains the program. Your school can do the same. Drop me a note at Lenore@LetGrow.org for more info!