The Bulletin

Why Free Play is Essential for Learning & Growth

Friday, November 2011

Peter Gray, Professor of Psychology (emeritus), Boston College stresses the importance of Free Play

A Waldorf education places great emphasis on the role of free play in a child’s development—play being the ‘work’ of a young child.  The October issue of The Atlantic echos this important truth.  Author and M.D. Esther Entin examines play-based research conducted by Dr. Peter Gray, Ph.D.
Gray argues that the decline of free play among children has resulted in higher suicide rates and increased behavioral issues.  He suggests a return to basics like extra time on the playground or a reduction in organized activities to help children grow into happy, well adjusted adults. 

Doctor Gray enumerates the FIVE WAYS PLAY BENEFITS KIDS

  1. When children are in charge of their own play, it provides a foundation for their future mental health as older children and adults:
  2. Play gives children a chance to find and develop a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.
  3. It is through play that children first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self control, and follow rules.
  4. Children learn to handle their emotions, including anger and fear, during play.
  5. Play helps children make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.
  6. Most importantly, play is a source of happiness.

As Ms. Entin commented, “For more than fifty years, children’s free play time has been continually declining, and it’s keeping them from turning into confident adults…”

Click here to continue reading this insightful article in the Atlantic.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. This article originally appeared on