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Day 10 – Tutorial Tuesday “The Play Deficit”

With the girls at tutorial, Tuesdays are the perfect time to catch up on blog posts and to share with you articles and resources that have been helpful to me.

Today I would like to share a wonderful article that my friend Stephie recently posted about play being so important for our children.

In his article, “The Play Deficit,” Peter Gray writes:

In school, and in other settings where adults are in charge, they make decisions for children and solve children’s problems. In play, children make their own decisions and solve their own problems. In adult-directed settings, children are weak and vulnerable. In play, they are strong and powerful. The play world is the child’s practice world for being an adult. We think of play as childish, but to the child, play is the experience of being like an adult: being self-controlled and responsible. To the degree that we take away play, we deprive children of the ability to practise adulthood, and we create people who will go through life with a sense of dependence and victimisation, a sense that there is some authority out there who is supposed to tell them what to do and solve their problems. That is not a healthy way to live.

Now please hear me when I say that this is not meant to be a judgment on school or anyone who attends school. Every family need is different and every solution is different. But I desperately need the assurance that play matters–particularly when we decide to forego books for morning and I watch my girls run with their “kid pack” through the woods of Shelby Park. This is not extracurricular. This is not what we do “if we have time.” Play is central, and it is teaching my kids how to be adults. It matters.

Do our kids suffer from a play deficit? If so, how can we combat this, in school, out of school, or otherwise?       What do you think?

{ 3 comments… add one }


  1. summer says:

    I haven’t had a chance to comment but I’ve really been enjoying your homeschooling blog. I’ve been doing our version of homeschool for 3 years now and more “unschooling” last year than anything else and I too had to come to terms with what play meant and just how important it is. I have landed right here where you are. It is essential. Even with my older daughter in a 3 day a week augmentation program that has cut into our home “play” time I have seen a difference in her. It’s almost like she has to remember how to have the confidence that play brings all over again, granted she jumps right back in after a little adjustment period but I think that is due to how much play she has already grown up with. I have met kids recently who quite literally don’t know how to play, I don’t know what the solution is. I’d be curious to hear how people in other schooling situations deal with the need for play considering how little time there is in a day after school, activities, homework…
    I admire the hard work you are doing to educate your daughters and find the right fit for your family. I have found that dynamic a continuous ebb and flow.

    1. Thank you Summer, for your thoughtful reply! I am still looking for solutions too. I think the hard part is knowing that not everyone can or is called to homeschool. I live in a neighborhood where a lot of children are raised by single parents–or grandparents, even. These care takers are on the bus early in the morning and late at night just to make it to and from work to provide for their families. Where is the time for play if these kiddos don’t get it in school? I am constantly thinking of ways to help or to be involved despite our removal from public school.

      I love hearing your story too. I am sure in a few years we will still be making adjustments as our needs change. I am thankful for the freedom that homeschool allows.

  2. Jessi says:

    Before we started homeschooling (last month), I noticed that Elliot was really having a hard time playing on his own. He would often build and design things with Lego’s but his imagination was limited when it came to actually creating a story and playing it out. He often came home from first grade so exhausted and overstimulated that he couldn’t find contentment in his own playtime and would beg for me to let a friend come over to keep him company. I’ve noticed in the last few weeks his imagination returning with a vengeance. He is happier with new discoveries and doesn’t beg for constant entertainment and he is much more content in his play (on his own, with his little sister, or with friends). His Lego creations have become even more amazing and intricate…. I love to see how quickly the love of play has returned after removing him from a traditional school environment.

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