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Is Playtime Really Over? 

By Wendy Priesnitz

Is Playtime Really Over?Kids need lots of play – preferably unstructured play that is uncontrolled by adults – to learn many things. One of those things is socialization: how to settle quarrels, to make rules (and what to do when somebody breaks them), to respect the rights of others, and to understand principles such as fair play. These are just some of the numerous skills – including academic ones – that are best learned through experience.

Some people argue that the days of unsupervised play are over, that life today is too dangerous for that. And, in some places, that could be true. But just because some urban areas aren’t as safe as they could be for kids, it doesn't mean that children’s play has to be structured. And the safety issue is highly debatable: Are parents these days just more prone to worry and thus supervise? Are we more concerned that our kids learn to compete than cooperate? Is it system issues regarding the structure and practices of school that work against unstructured play?

Those are questions that we’ll be exploring here at Child’s Play Magazine in the future. But for now, we have come across an eloquent opinion piece by David Elkind that underlines the sorry state of play, at least in schools. Elkind, who has long abhorred the lack of unstructured time we allow for our children, has come out (at least reservedly) in favor of structuring recess with coaches!

Fortunately, there are alternatives, and they lie in restructuring our education systems, rather than in structuring schools. The fast-growing number of unschooling families across North America and around the world are proof that playtime definitely does not have to be over.

Wendy Priesnitz,

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