The first time I taught a course on play, I used the term Play Defenders. I told my students, as future early childhood educators, they would have to become Play Defenders. It might be parents, or other teachers, or even their administrator that questioned their insistence on free play being part of the curriculum, thus their job would be to defend play. I armed them with research on the benefits of play not only to help with learning, but to promote social and emotional development which to me was way more important. When it comes to the need to defend play, not much has changed in the past five years since I taught that first course on play. Now I teach, research, and write about the need to defend play. Not just to my students, but to the teachers who mentor them, the administrators who hire them, the parents who entrust them to teach their child, and the lawmakers who decide which early childhood programs to fund.
Resistance to play is everywhere. Parents stressed that their child will not do well in kindergarten or graduate from high school can become resistant to play. Teachers forced to raise test scores at all cost will likely resist play as a waste of time. Administrators looking to prove their programs are a worthy investment will view play as risky instead of necessary. And lawmakers demanding to see evidence of long-term growth and increased academic achievement will be resistant to see the value in play. Given all this resistance, what chance do the Play Defenders have at saving play?
Well, the Play Defenders have a new ally in their fight to save play…pediatricians. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a clinical report last month that depicts the role pediatricians have in using play to promote healthy development in all young children. The report provides. . .