Play Is Not a Four Letter Word: Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapter 13 (Week 5)

Published on: September 28, 2015

Filled Under: Beyond The Pages, Books, Guest Speakers

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What If Book Study Marketing PicThis week we are discussing Chapter 13: Play Is Not a Four Letter Word. Dr. Walter F. Drew is our guest content expert this week to provide insight and lead our discussion. Visit Dr. Drew’s website to learn more about his work. You can find him on Facebook at Dr. Drew’s Blocks. Just joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.



“The goal of education is to create possibilities for children to invent and discover.”   Jean Piaget

In Chapter 13, Rae Pica makes the point that “True play is open-ended and intrinsically motivated. True play is not directed by adults.”  To be insensitive to the significance of this teaching – or worse yet to ignore the implications – would be to miss the opportunity to strengthen the essential developing capacities of young children.

What Can We Do to Cultivate Play and Creativity in Child Development?

As a way of elaborating on Rae Pica’s comments, I invite you to view a short unedited YouTube video of 5 and 6 year old children as they engage in a compelling example of a true play experience that is open-ended and intrinsically motivated. And not directed by adults.

One area of child development that has received little attention, but which is a positive instructional strategy and strong indicator of creative potential, is solitary self active play. In the video, you will see children standing side-by-side around one very long table covered with a variety of open-ended materials; little purple foam cylinders, red and yellow plastic caps, and an array of Dr. Drew’s Discovery Blocks. The children are asked to play quietly by themselves for one minute. The results are stunning! Parents sit nearby observing and making notes of what they see.

“Cultivating Creativity in Young Children” is a video that will challenge your understanding of play and reveal surprising possibilities that may influence your professional practice and child development.

“Cultivating Creativity in Young Children”

What Do You Observe as You View the Video?

Is there joy, creativity, imagination, and inventiveness reflected in the children? Are the children focused, engaged, intentional, and self-regulated? Is there a sense of wonder and curiosity?

Rae Pica calls attention to the importance of creativity. Creativity is increasingly recognized as vital part of child development. It is an essential life skill required for success in our rapidly changing world, and therefore an important component of child development. Creativity is something we all have, and it enables children as well as adults to discover new possibilities and define new relationships, make connections, and overcome challenging barriers using innate creative problem solving abilities. Just as the children vividly demonstrate as they play. Play is a source of creative energy, a positive force, and safe context for children to generate optimism and construct meaningful self-knowledge.

In the silence of the children’s play, they are developing and demonstrating mastery of materials and of themselves. The children are in control and fully self active. According to Friedrich Froebel, the father of the kindergarten and early childhood education, “self active” means that the child must do all him or herself, that he or she will benefit only by what he or she actually does, and that at all times the child’s whole being, the whole self must be active...hands, heart, and mind.

How is Play an Expressive System for Child Development?

In the video, we see the children initiate and guide their own wondering, actively exploring, discovering, and learning. No one tells them what to do or how to do it. They are functioning independently and “paying attention” to what interests them. Being fully present, focused and engaged in self active play with open-ended materials, helps children develop a sense of power and competence as they construct and render visual expressions through aesthetically pleasing three-dimensional forms. I remain totally amazed at the precious comments, stories, and meaning the children share as part of their play. One little girl spontaneously exclaims: “I made one of those like homeless places and people can sit around here if they don’t have any food and this is food for them to eat….”

I am touched by her sensitivity, her social awareness, and caring concern for others.

Another little girl offers, “I made a rehab. It’s the rehab my grand daddy used to go to,…..”  Without play experiences that allow for openness and spontaneity, young children are less likely to express original thinking and personal concerns. Brian Sutton Smith reminds us of the importance of play and art making in healthy human development. “These expressive systems generate optimism about our life in this world; and they get this by displaying original ways of putting aside our pessimisms and depressions and boredoms and innovating a virtual life that is primarily a lot of fun. There plays for them are real originality and this is what both improves their feelings about ordinary present day life and sometimes promises a future, where their innovations will be central.”

Play becomes the medium for original thinking and expressive language development as children share their creativity, emerging feelings and ideas, and the positive meaning they assign directly from their own flow of consciousness and sensory exploration. It is in the touching, the full sensory integration while sorting, organizing and constructing with open-ended materials that children make the inner connection and begin to understand themselves while also developing essential life skills and concepts in science and art, math, and literacy…..with hands, heart, and mind working together as one.

Children display insight, enthusiasm, and joyfulness in what they create. In the doing and the making of something physical and meaningful to the children that is uniquely theirs, they create a powerful positive influence on self-efficacy, a strong predicator of resilience, creativity, and academic success. This is one way children and adults both come to believe in themselves and gain the respect of friends and colleagues within the community of learners. As I observe children engaging in this form of creative artistic activity, I am awestruck by their intense focus, engagement, imagination and creativity, radiant faces revealing wonderment, eloquent explanations, and visible self-delight. The children’s hands, hearts, and minds are unified in joyful self active play.

How Does Play Develop Early STEM and Art Making Skills?

One little boy comments,“I made a Star Wars ship….”  Once again, much of what happens in these happy moments of self active play, remains impossible to fully describe. Only a small portion of the joy and learning richness can be expressed with words. The physical “Star Wars ship” the child creates supports his inquiry and reveals to him and to us his capacity to envision, elaborate, and make real his idea with aesthetic beauty.

In Tom Henricks’ most recent book “Play and the Human Condition,” he highlights how play helps children begin to understand and experience what is involved in the process of creating form and meaning, of inventing, and ascribing with language the perceived meaning generated during their play. When the whole child is absorbed, fully present and self active exploring unusual open-ended materials, play becomes a joyful way of learning and creating form and meaning beyond the event. The intensity and expansiveness of the play experience makes a deep emotional impression on the child and raises the possibility of it continuing to exert a positive emotional influence on the child’s development and therefore on future success in school and life. Play is an alternate universe with unlimited possibilities for children to explore, imagine, and discover their creative potential in a safe and developmentally appropriate way!

In the video we see early STEM skills artfully practiced as the children play, design, and build “one of a kind” structures. They are learning how to organize and use materials, balance, count, measure, invent, and connect their ideas and inner visions through action and personal expressed meaning. Science, mathematics, and engineering principles are revealed as they construct these impressive complex three-dimensional models.

What happens first, influences what happens next….

Asking the question, “How am I to deepen my own understanding of play and its importance in human development?” motivates me to explore new ways of engaging children and adults in nurturing play experiences. I see more clearly what happens when children and adults are given the freedom to explore and create with a variety of unusual open-ended materials in solitary self active play. There is less distraction and more self-regulation. I value cooperative play and the many benefits it offers children, especially in developing social competence. Learning to share and work together in cooperative play is of epic importance for young children. However, I am also drawn to the value of silent solitary self active play as a natural way of enhancing initiative, concentration, promoting creativity, and strengthening self-expression. It is a form of creative contemplation, a meditation on form and structure and the expressive creative power within the child. That is perhaps why Piaget suggested that we must help young children to be self active, ”Experience is always necessary for intellectual development,….the subject must be active, must transform things, and find the structure of his own actions on the objects.”

Rae Pica reminds us that young children’s play and creativity are processes that require the choice and use of real materials to produce authentic learning aligned with their inner vision. The process of play, of making things with open-ended materials, stimulates imagination and creative thinking. Questions of interest emerge and motivate children to practice perseverance in solving problems that lead to invention and self-discovery.

Do you notice any early STEM or STEAM skills being practiced in the video as the children play? What evidence is there of children using the scientific method in their play?  (observation, experimentation, measurement,  hypothesizing, formulating ideas and questions, testing, model making)

Do you see any new implications for your professional practice and enhancing child development?

The importance of play and the children’s own intrinsic curiosity, imagination and creativity cannot be overestimated because it is such a powerful influence on their original thinking and actions and provides us with evidence of what is interesting to the children. To the extent that we are insensitive to their preference or ignore these observations, or seek to prematurely direct their play in ways we think are more important, we run the risk of weakening the power of play and of their own unique innate curiosity and creativity to influence healthy child development. Valuing and respecting the personal preferences of children is key to helping them develop the same thoughtful life long practice with others.

What’s A Teacher to Do?

At the end of the chapter, Rae Pica comments: “If you’re an early childhood educator being pressured by parents to have more of an academics-oriented curriculum, educate them. Help them to understand the value of play.”

One of the best ways to help parents understand and value play is to offer hands-on play workshops that immerses parents in actual play experiences consistent with developmentally appropriate practices for young children, both solitary and cooperative. (For more on the adult self active play process see NAEYC publication: From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers Play to Children’s Learning  by Nell & Drew) The process of using play with open-ended materials provides a framework that helps parents think about their own children and ways they can support play efforts within the classroom and the family.

If you enjoyed viewing the first video, you may appreciate seeing the the second YouTube that shows what happens when 4 and 5 year old children engage in a similar process of silent solitary self active play with a slightly different set of materials.

“Teaching Young Children”

Perhaps you will see in the actions of the children that silent solitary play is another way to help them express their creative energies and thereby realize and appreciate that they have the power within themselves to influence, if not to create, harmony and order in their lives.

As parents, as early childhood educators, we are called upon to be aware of the importance of play in the lives of children, as Rae Pica has suggested. As American philosopher, poet, and naturalist Ralph Waldo Emerson has proclaimed, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”


  • Duckworth, E. (1970) Piaget Rediscovered.  The ESS Reader Education Development Center, Newton MA Froebel, F. (1887) The Education of Man, Appelton and Company, New York
  • Henricks, T. (2015). Play and the human condition.  Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
  • Nell, M. & W. Drew,  (2014).  From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers Play with Children’s Learning, NAEYC, Washington D.C.
  • Sutton-Smith, B. (2007)  Play as the survival of optimism and origination (The double 0). Paper presented at Florida AEYC Annual Conference Professional Development Day, Orlando, Florida


Please share/retweet this post! Let us know that you’re participating in this study. We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapter 13 and about the commentary that Dr. Drew has provided. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas here! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor

What to read next: Chapters 8- But Competition is Human Nature, 9- Terriost Tots, and 29- You’re Outta Here! (10/5/15).

*If you’re a MN participant seeking training hours, please visit this link to access to requirements.

69 Responses to Play Is Not a Four Letter Word: Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapter 13 (Week 5)

  1. Rae Pica says:

    Thank you, Walter — for this post and for your longtime work in support of play! I so enjoyed the video. I must admit that when I first saw it was 13 minutes long, I hesitated to start watching. But it was so engaging that once I started I couldn’t stop!

  2. Dear Rae,

    I love your writing,…. the way you simplify and synthesize essential teaching is inspiring to me. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity, the honor, to respond to what you wrote and to somehow join with you in support of play. I am glad you enjoyed the video. The children and their play is so pure and so wonderful to see….Love, play, peace, Walter

  3. Rae Pica says:

    Awww, Walter, you’ve made my day. Thank you for your lovely words. Love, play, and peace to you as well.

  4. Rachel says:

    Hooray for this chapter! As a child life specialist, some people refer to me as the “play lady” or make comments like “I wish I could just play with kids all day.” At times this oversimplification of my career is a bit annoying, however this chapter really encourages me – we make time for children to play in the hospital; it’s what they should be doing, they’re kids!

    Deb Vilas is one of the play champions in our child life field. She is always encouraging child life specialists to provide “loose parts” play – the same concept as in the youtube videos Walter posted. Children can use their creativity and imaginations to manipulate loose medical supplies in a non-threatening manner, and come up with their own inventions, creations and artwork. It opens up the door for lots of conversations about what they created. Similarly to the videos, children have worked through many thought processes about how and why they did what they did while they played.

    Relating this chapter back to our first week’s readings – I think it is a learning experience as parents and educators to facilitate play experiences. With pressure to “teach,” we adults do so much talking when what we should be doing is simply asking questions that provoke more thought. This is such a great opportunity to address the topic in Chapter 1 – all children are not the same. In these play learning experiences, each child is able to direct, process and create something individually but they are all learning.

  5. Thank you for your comments Rachel, and for sharing the Washington Post post! I’ve been thinking about what Rae said in her comment above, that is, that she hesitated to watch the video but once she started she couldn’t stop. Cultivating Creativity in Young Children is 13 minutes of what you would normally NOT see in classrooms. Something different to consider. Watching it twice or more reveals a second set of surprising insights each time. What did you miss the first time? While the video portrays children immersed in silent solitary play, they are not alone. This is a community of learners viewing, interacting and learning from one another. A lesson in community building. Notice how the children notice what others are doing. There is a quiet sharing happening spontaneously. A contribution to the community. There is a gentle thoughtful sharing of resources. A unique creative application of materials in the heartfelt expression of ideas. There is a subtle collaboration happening as children share visually their improvisations with nearby friends to observe and explore further. So simple, natural and obviously right for each child. And so orderly and harmonious within the social structure of this community. There is a palpable appreciation of the children for one another and for themselves. Is there communication happening between the children? What language are they using? I am reminded of Loris Malaguzzi and the Hundred Languages of Children. The vitality and aesthetic uniqueness communicated in the physical form is laden with positive emotional meaning…communication which itself represents the ability to cooperate. To me this suggests that silent solitary play, in the company of others, is a powerful and eminently appropriate behavior for strengthening social competence and emotional wellbeing. The children are so obviously collaborating members of a learning community. Each contributing to the productivity and well being of the group. I believe the parents see this and that helps them to appreciate the value of play. Peaceful, cooperative, enjoyable and enlightening. It is reasonable to view this little video as a brief ecosystem study. We are viewing a colony of children freely spontaneously exploring, inventing and discovering ways of being within a community. Creating forms as communication of ideas with words to follow,…a functional necessary behavior in the ecology of human existence and ecosystems. This form of play is community development richly portraying the value of diversity. We see in the children’s play moments of compassion, empathy, resilience, along with their creativity as the innate positive force which enables their expression of their personal gifts. As a witnessing adult it is a sublime pleasure to realize these happening before my eyes,…such a wonderful happening of humanity! We see in the children’s live example the prospect for the future. In “Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be in Our Achievement-Oriented Society” , Bill Crain advocates for adults to have a patient and unobtrusive presence. In the video the children needed no provocation from an adult. No question to further their learning, but rather the adult being present, viewing and listening. Yes, at times in children’s play as learning there is a need to enter their play space and extend their inquiry with a question or suggestion, an acknowledgment of them with encouragement to consider another aspect suggested by you. For me in this video, it was all about the children and what they felt and thought without any external extraneous adult influence other than to ask if there was any comment they would like to share. View the video again. What do you see or feel now that you missed the first time? I see the video as a tool for professional development, for parent education. See the video twice with a friend. Discuss what you see. Then look at it again!

  6. Scott says:

    Too often adults dismiss something as “just play.” But that’s where children can really explore, investigate, attempt, fail, retry, and LEARN. In the midst of all that academic content, teachers sometimes forget that using play and discovery can make the learning so much more permanent than many other methods/techniques. (And, as you mention above, “a patient and unobtrusive presence” from adults is so important!)

  7. Sarah Fritsch says:

    Thank you so much Walter for the video’s! Just being able to sit and observe children create is such a gift. I believe teachers and parents do feel pressure that they need to be constantly questioning, giving feedback and direction while children play. These videos give us such a great example of what children are capable of on their own. As I observed and listened to the children explain their creations I felt like I was getting to know them; their passions, thoughts, and abilities. There is so much we can gain by just sitting back and observing.
    I discuss the importance of play often with my parenting groups but I have never given the parents themselves open ended materials to play with for a period of time. I do believe this would really open their eyes to what play really is and how beneficial it is not only for our cognitive development but all developmental domains. You said in your above comments that open play leads to less distraction and more self regulation. I so agree!! Observing the video each child was concentrating on their own creation, working at their own pace and deciding for themselves when they were satisfied that their piece was finished. The look of accomplishment on their faces when they were describing their creation brought joy to my heart. It really made me think of how rare the opportunity to create and be present in the moment is for children who are over scheduled and pressured to come up with a certain product or end result while they are in preschool or even at home.

  8. Jen Nagorski says:

    I also enjoyed the video–thanks Walter! The creativity these kids show is what excites me the most. I’ve always loved the George Bernard Shaw quote: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” The kids in the video reminded me of the power of play and creative freedom.

    I can certainly relate to Rachel’s annoyance at being called a “play lady.” However this chapter/discussion made me think maybe I should stop trying to assert myself as more than a play lady and instead use that energy to advocate for the importance of play–that’s right, I am a play lady, and play is fundamental.

    Just this week, a friend with a 3 year old son shared that she is worried his daycare center is providing too many structured activities during the day. He is a room with 3-6 year olds and much of the day is spent on academics, with not much time for free play. Her son has been getting into trouble recently, she thinks this is because he’s not ready for the level of structure provided each day. I was astounded that anyone would think that the developmental needs of both a 3 and 6 year old could be met with the same curriculum/programing. Luckily, she has a flexible work schedule and he doesn’t go to daycare full-time. She also makes plenty of time for free play and risk taking (see previous week 🙂 at home.

  9. Dear Scott, Thank you for taking time to share your response. I have been thinking about your comments above on October 3rd, 2015 at 1:34pm. It is in the experience of play that children realize the power and joy they have access to when they play. As you said, some adults have the tendency to dismiss the experience as “just play”, but we know that play is so much more. Community Playthings has a wonderful little book, “The Wonder and Wisdom of Play: How Children Make Sense of the World” with inspiring summaries about play by leaders in our field of early childhood education,….David Elkind…:”a way to learn about self and the world through self-created experiences”,…..”it starts with the child and not with the subject matter”,…Joan Almon and Edward Miller,….”play works, but is seriously endangered in today’s schools”,…..Larry Schweinhart,….”we learn what we do.”,….Francis Wardle,…”a sense of power, control, and mastery of their own learning”,…..and Richard Lewis states, “In more solitary forms of play – be it a child playing in a sand box, dressing up, or having a conversation with a doll – the imagination is now, through its own resources, at play. It is creating, pretending, performing, and bringing children into a space of their unique knowing and understanding.” This is really a lovely book with colorful photos and relevance to understanding the deeper meaning of play as something much more than “just play”. I think Community Playthings may still be offering a free copy of this book if you call 1-800-777-4244 or

  10. Dear Sarah, Thank you for responding! I am glad you enjoyed the videos and sense your enthusiasm for the idea of actually engaging parents in hands-on play experiences. I know of no better way of helping adults realize the importance of play, the deep meaning and learning that arises while we are in the play space. Adult self active play DOES as you, “really open their eyes to what play really is and how beneficial it is not only for our cognitive development but all developmental domains.” Here is a 5 minute video that helps us see how parents and teachers engage in both solo and cooperative play with open ended materials.

    Once again, just as with the children, adults focus, engage, create, invent, and discover ways of using materials and expressing ideas and feeling with enthusiasm. The enjoyment is palpable. Play experiences that offer adults the freedom to initiate, explore, create using open ended materials moves them closer to understanding why the process is so important to their children’s mental health and well being,….to their education and child development. Perhaps it brings us back to the question Rae is asking,……”What if everybody understood child development?” What if we engage parents in unique and enjoyable play experiences as a way of helping them understand child development,…..and the importance of play in the life of the child and family?

    Please let me know if you offer your parenting groups a play experience. I would really appreciate knowing what happens,….both for them and for you.

  11. Dear Jen, Thank you for taking the time to respond on October 7th, 2015 at 2:32 pm to my comments and the videos. I am glad you got excited seeing the creativity of the children. That happens to me too! I believe all children and all adults need the time and freedom to enjoy self-initiated play. Whether 3 or 6 or 76 years old,….play with open ended materials sharpens the mind, soothes the soul, and strengthens the connection with our inner being, that inner capacity for overcoming distress in our life. If children are denied the right and developmental need to play, that is to initiate and control the positive flow of creative energy, we might expect a negative or opposite reaction. Perhaps this is what is happening with the young child you mentioned. The remedy may well be the opportunity to engage freely in joyful play. Whether as a child or as the adult, there must be a balance between activities that are chosen and directed by someone else for us and those that are self chosen and self directed by ourselves. With young children up until at least the age of 8 years,… with physical objects of interest to them provides the stimulus to focus and satisfy that need to choose and direct and create their own learning. In these moments children experience their inner power, that power to create harmony and order. This is a profoundly significant developmental need for children to experience and satisfy. We all have that need. Since young children operate and learn best through physical experiences that engage their hands, hearts and minds,…physical materials are primary tools for developing essential life skills. As you may know, Ellen Galinsky writes brilliantly about these skills in her book, “Mind in the Making”.

    For many teachers of young children, they lack good materials to promote developmentally appropriate hands-on activities. Whether it is called science or math, play or art making, materials are the tools through which young children learn and develop the essential foundational concepts and skills for life.
    Stimulating materials enrich the learning environment and the learning experience, the play experience and child development. The lack of good materials and high quality hands-on professional development impedes “best practices” with young children. Here is a short video that you may find interesting.

    The video addresses the need for materials. It also tackles the issue of where to get free and unusual materials to stimulate curiosity, creativity, imagination in children and adults. Perhaps you have a program like this in your community. Please let me know if you do, if not perhaps you might be interested in sewing some seeds.

  12. Jane says:

    The videos were so captivating in watched them several times. As pressure is on us to teach it is easy to overlook the importance of time to spend playing with appropriate materials . I loved the focused time of creativity and problem solving.
    Your comment about true play being open ended and intrinsic really summed up the issue for me. We could end up with a generation unable to self regulate due partly to a lack of meaningful developmentally appropriate open ended play.

  13. Rae Pica says:

    Yesterday I watched the 4-year-old nephew of a friend keep himself occupied for HOURS while the grown-ups did their thing around him. He was simply playing with some toy trucks and little people, rolling them across the table and up the wall and carrying on a conversation with himself. It was both delightful and sad — the latter because I tried to imagine him going to preschool and being asked to sit still and do worksheets. I don’t understand how anyone could watch him at play and not realize that what he was doing was what he was SUPPOSED to be doing!

  14. Dianne says:

    I really enjoyed watching the videos of the children playing. I am amazed at some of the things they created and how quietly they worked. Each of their creations were different and unique. Some of them may have started out somewhat the same but then each of them became very different. I was surprised at the length of time these children were content with working on this project. I have very few of my daycare children that would stick with one activity for that length of time. I also feel like several of the children I work with lack the creativity to come up with their own designs and want to be told either by an adult or by another child what to build and how to build it. Those are the children that don’t seem to know how to play and those are the same children that spend their time at home on electronics. Based on my experience, I feel that there is a strong connection between electronics and lack of creativity. I am not saying preschoolers should not have any access to electronics, but I do think their time should be limited and that they should have more time for active play then for video games.

  15. Dear Diane,

    Thank you for sharing your response to the video. What would happen if one day your children
    were invited to try something new. You provide a set of materials that they have never seen or played with before. Like the video all the children are standing around a long common work area, perhaps a gathering of desks or tables covered with a single common cloth. On the table the materials are placed so that they are easily accessible to the children. As a research experience you ask the children to work silently for one minute. One minute. They are given he freedom to play without speaking and afterwards there will be plenty of time to talk. With sufficiently interesting open-ended aesthetically pleasing material in abundance I believe your children will become focused and immersed in the bliss of self active play. Quietly take photos or video of their play. Say nothing. Simply observe and be present. View this not as a challenge, but rather a teacher action research investigation to see what happen with your request. An open possibility. What is the response of the children? What do they do with the materials? What do they say about what they do? Each experience reveals its on unique content. I find this way of working with children fascinating and inspiring. I really enjoy the freedom and openness of working and playing this way. There is less prescription and more learning with joyfulness. I begin with the assumption that all children have creative capacities which can be engaged and thereby expressed and developed, just as with adults.
    Play with attractive engaging materials has so much power to focus and engage the hands, heart and mind as a unified force for learning. In this way children and adults deepen their appreciation for their own capacity to create harmony and order. There is a flow of creative energy which serves to rekindle and balance our state of being. The question of what learning is taking place, what math or science, what literacy or communication skills are being developed, as present before us in richly expressed three dimensional forms,…waiting for the children to assign meaning and for the teacher to help them relate their learning to the intended core learning outcomes desired. The value is in the doing and the making and the reflecting on the experience and the defined meaning arising within the doers who share the content of their person experience. Thank you again for provoking my response. I would love to learn whatever happens if you have opportunity to investigate something like what I have suggested. MAY YOUR NEW YEAR OF TEACHING BE FILLED WITH MANY NEW AND EXCITING MOMENTS OF BLISSFUL DISCOVERIES WITH YOUR CHILDREN…

  16. Kim Woehl says:

    Play is something that we have been struggling with for a long time. As a caregiver of 22 years in a family child care setting. I have seen the shift from a curriculum that was play based to one where parents are encouraging strong academics with little to no thought or understanding of what children need. I was reminded that “true play is open-ended and intrinsically motivated. True play is not directed by adults. It has nothing to do with product and everything to do with process (fun)”. Pica, R. (n.d.). What if everybody understood child development?: Straight talk about bettering education and children’s lives.

    I worry for our future when I see the anxiety, depression, signs of stress and children who are not fitting into the requirements of the adult world. For me the key was in educating parents about what the objectives for learning might be and how we can support these through play. As the first video so clearly shared, we all have the ability to be creative and unique. What we are learning in this process of self play is critical to later success.

    Educating parents is doable, its individual. What I worry more about is how to educate our school systems of individuality as they teach to one mass group. I worry about the governments requirements that further push schools and teachers into tight fitting boxes with concrete goals for all, even though all will not be successful. I worry even more for that child who could not comply to the push and the rule.

    How can we make this huge change so that children can be successful. How do we teach those who hold the cards that what we are doing for children currently has dire consequences. I do not know other than to teach, one person at a time.

  17. Heather Q says:

    As a toddler teacher, I struggle to fit all the “daily schedule” events into any given day. I sometimes feel the pressure to provide all the elements of the academic plan before lunch. I need to remind myself that play is valuable, play is creative, play is STEM, play is language, PLAY IS LEARNING!

    my blog has more thoughts here:

  18. Cindy Kish says:

    I enjoyed the videos and comments. This chapter was wonderful and can’t wait to share some of the information with my families. In todays world families over schedule their children with to many classes and activities. The children have no time to relax, play and learn. After 35 years in family childcare I also have the shift in curriculum from play to academics. I use more open free time play and see much better results. I am planning on loaning this book out to all of my families so they can also learn the benefits of open and free time play.

  19. Dear Kish, Thank you for sharing and enjoying the video and writing. I love the videos of the children playing with open-ended comments and then sharing their narrative,…telling their story. SO perfectly fitting to developing literacy and oral language skills, not to mention all STEM and ART content and processes blooming before our eyes.

    I am excited to be working directly with parents around the idea of using play with open-ended objects to promote wellbeing and school success with their children. I am convinced of the power of adult self active play with open ended objects in transforming attitudes and practices focused on the wonder of play. Recently at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, it was the Friday of the Week of Young Children, I had the pleasure of leading a play workshop with about 24 parents and about 28 young children ranging from a nursing baby to a nine year old and a couple of dozen other other age children in between. I have a photo of two 4 year olds smiling and enjoying the little puppy in the arms of one of the three children. While next to them a mother is building a tower with some splendid materials. Her delight is noticeable in her expression. All around the room parents and children are sitting on the floor,… playing, talking, sharing, building things together. It was magical.” I am glad I came this evening it feels wonderful to have this quality time with my son. For and family life gets pretty hectic and time together is difficult to find.”, comments one of the fathers. Another father said, “It’s important to be able to deal with this kind of open activity with the children free to create as they like. There’s is a lot of purposeful creativity happening. here” I mention this little story in response to your comments. I enjoyed your vision and hope you give this idea of play with open ended objects as an intentional parent or family enjoyable learning experience in support of their understanding the importance of play,….and to insure it bountiful in their family life. It was inspiring to see the parents so fully engaged with their children and with other adults. The parents had time to play, to talk with other parents, to observe how other parents interact and communicate and play with their children. Positive role models were very present. I think the openness, the freedom to play, the quality and abundance of the materials and the time contributed to a truly unique and enjoyable experience for everyone. Thank you for inspiring me to write about it!
    I hope this makes sense to you….Thank you for sharing. Love, play, peace,….Walter Drew

  20. Diana M says:

    As I may have mentioned a few posts ago, my work place has recently been trying to encourage a more play based curriculum and it’s amazing how much opposition there had been from not only parents but some of the teachers! They feel that the kids aren’t learning anything because all they say about their day is that “I played.” I think educating parents is very necessary because some just simply don’t know the benefits of play! I love how Rae Pica listed just some of them which helps if I need to quickly reference those benefits to a parent. It’s truly amazing what children think of when they are playing either by themselves or with their peers. I had one kid build a stadium out of Legos, complete with seats, a scoreboard and baseball diamond! One of my co-workers has brilliantly placed little cards around her room with examples of activities and how it’s not”just playing” but learning valuable academic, creative, and life skills!

  21. Rachel D says:

    I am so glad to hear that more children should be playing and that there are various resources that support this idea. In a world where everything seems to be about getting ahead in life and starting children off at elite child-care centers in the end it all comes down to being able to play. Our center is about to open up a room called, “Loose Parts” that consists of a variety of toys and other manipulatives for the children. I was a little skeptical at first about how this would work out but I think it will be so beneficial for the children to have a place to play and let their imagination and creativity flow. Watching the videos reminded me of what the children at my center will now have the opportunity to experience. I am still amazed at what some of the children can create if they are sitting by themselves next to a variety of manipulatives. Every chapter that I read of this book brings light to so many topics. I love it.

  22. Rae Pica says:

    Rachel, I’ve loved reading your comments and am so pleased that you’re finding the book to be informative!

  23. Kelsie Brandl says:

    When I worked with Early Preschoolers, it was highly based on reading, but often on their own. But so many couldn’t read on their own yet. If only they could mix in a sense of play with it because the children are so loud and antsy during this time that most don’t even look at the book. There are times where books are read to the children as well as tape stories. But remember their age and that books are mainly pictures now. I remember as a child my favorite teachers mixed learning with play. We had spelling games against the others students as well as math games. Play definitely needs more attention. I agree 100%.

  24. Samantha miller says:

    Play is such an important part of child development. They often express concerns or things the think about through play. I find out so much about how my kids are feeling and what they are thinking about through watching them play or them explaining what they are doing. They feel safe to connect and talk about things that they normally wouldn’t just sitting and talking. As far as what I can do as an educator, I want to make sure play is essential in my program. By explaining to parents why it is important and the benefits of it.

  25. Freda says:

    With time, parents are trying to limit how long their kids have free play. People are getting to that point where they feel with every minute a child spends playing, they loose an hour of learning which is a more better choice. This is actually not true. Free play is very important. In my daycare setting, I scheduled free play twice a day. I have noticed kids are more happy and enjoy every minute of it. I on the other hand, love watching how they solve their problems and interact with one another. They get to use their imagination to create beautiful scenarios and I love to just see them blossom in their different personalities. We should never expect more from our children. Someday, they’ll grow to be adults but before then, let kids be kids.

  26. Nikki Shapiro says:

    The importance of play….sometimes I think I am educating parents about this on a daily basis. Observing children play, one can learn so much about their thoughts and emotions, and the children are learning a variety of skills through play. When observing children play in the water table, they are learning measuring and volume by pouring from one container to the next. Some of them pretend to make food or drinks. They learn science by what sinks and what floats. They learn self control by not pouring water on the person next to them. Play based learning teaches negotiation, sharing, leadership, cooperation, etc. When observing children with open ended items for “constructing” something, it is exciting to hear them use their imaginations to create a tower or a building, or whatever they discover that is exciting. I have noticed observing my small group that they often act out what they see. For example, we have a one year old that just started walking. The 3’s and 4’s have been playing with dolls and now their dolls are just starting to learn how to walk. And they even hold up their arms like the new walker! In an overscheduled world, I love that my job allows me to observe children learning through play.

  27. Kirsten Barie says:

    I could relate to the part in the book where Rae mentions that parents feel an activity needs to have a “purpose” or some end goal in mind. Parents often feel that they should be enrolling their children in the best schools, the best sports programs, etc… I think they feel that their child will somehow be behind if the don’t “keep up with the Joneses”. It is to the point where children are overscheduled and then the parents wonder why the children are having behavior issues when all they need is some time for rest and uninterrupted play.

    We are at the point in our school year now where I am sending out surveys. Ninety-nine percent of our surveys are fantastic but there is always that one parent that says we are not doing enough. I believe I know who completed that survey because the parent has told me the same thing in person more or less. The worst part is that the parent, herself, used to be an elementary educator. It is sad that she is already putting that much pressure on her own child. We believe that what our program is doing is right. We are a play based program but do incorporate skills to prepare them for kindergarten after they leave us.

  28. Marcy Dragseth says:

    This chapter enlightened me to having free play. As a provider parents like to see curriculum being followed. I will enlighten them how important play is for children. It teaches them many things like sharing, team work skills make rules and solve any problems among other things.

    Watching the video surprised me how quiet the children were. I loved how creative each child was. No one was the same. It was very interesting to observe.

  29. Kelly North says:

    I liked the videos and enjoyed the comments. I plan on sharing the information in chapter 13 as well as the video links with my parents. I have been a childcare provider for 22years and have always incorporated play based curriculum, but lately some of my families have been pushing for more academics. I had been seriously thinking about changing it, but after reading this chapter and watching the videos I will keep doing what I have been for the last 22 years and that’s letting the children learn through PLAY!!!

  30. Yi Ling (Ivy) Flanders says:

    We are a play-based preschool, and I absolutely love it!! This is the best way as children have great senses during 3-5 age, they like to touch, to smell, to speak, to feel and to try everything, learn through play would be most effective way for them to learn new things. We also educate the parents, to show them we all want the best for children, and to let them see the value of learn through play.

  31. Derrylin Young says:

    In Chapter 13, Play is not a four letter word, Rae Pica talks about the importance of Playing for children. I totally agree that if we take play from our kids they won’t have a full developed childhood and they will become like adults too early. I remember just being outside and exploring our backyard. Things like this are missed today. I loved the video that Dr. Walter showed us also that shows kids doing open ended play. You can see how they are thinking, and creating, and trying one way to build and then changing it to another way. This clearly shows learning cognitively, creatively, as well as math. I will continue to add more play to my classroom and open ended activities like this to foster the growth of my children.

  32. Steph Kallinen says:

    I am going to try and incorporate more open ended play into my child care program! I am a bit of a neat freak and I think the possibility for messes really holds me back from projects and just letting the kids go crazy! Bring on the paint, play-doh and art supplies. I may have to draw the line at glitter though!

  33. Kathryn says:

    Chapter 13
    Our society and culture have placed too much value on hard work, achievement, and goals. It is sad to see what used to be taught in the second or third grade curriculum now being taught in first grade, which pushes first grade and Kindergarten curriculum down into preschool and toddler classrooms. I’m not saying that hard work, achievement, and goals should not be valued but that the emphasis on those qualities needs to be balanced with hands-on learning and play. Playing is a form of learning which does take hard work to accomplish the many skills a child can get from play including cognitive, emotional, and social skills to prepare them for things to come later in their school careers.

  34. Shari Ernst says:

    I read this chapter just in time. I just had a family pull their child because they are enrolling that child in a “well known” school. They feel their child needs to be learning more….reading already…the child is 4. This chapter gave me some peace in knowing that we are doing the right thing in our daycare. We have a play based curriculum. I feel that Rae is right about the fact that this is the only time in the child’s life they can play with no other worries. Just like Rae said “we can’t keep puppies and kittens from frolicking…its what nature intended”. I feel that way with my daycare kids. They need to play, have fun, just be kids, have free time to decide what to play. I can see how play deprivation can lead to depression. As an adult if I don’t get some down time from life…even I can get down. We all need down time…to play or relax.

  35. Shari Ernst says:

    So much controversy and different factors in these three chapters. First in Chapter 8 about competition being human nature. I really thought we were born with a little bit of competitive nature in us. Uggg I was wrong. We really have put a lot of focus on being competitive in the US. I feel a small level is good but when we compare what one child is doing compared to another child it almost feels like some parents look at it as a competition as to what level of development a child is at. Example…oh my child was walking by 9 months…wasn’t yours? Heck most parents seem in competition with other parents. It’s not a race…not one wins. We all finish the same. I love the idea that we need to make opportunities for cooperation rather that competition. If our goal is to prepare children for the world, or society, and it was stated that employers are looking for team players or people who work well as a team than we should focus on that.
    The video shares from youtube was cute. I loved that the kids could just be free to build anything they wanted. It was more fun for me to watch them explain what they built.
    Then the issue with Terrorists and children. This is definitely a two way street. I really feel the punishment should help teach the child about what they did wrong and what would be a better choice. On one hand I would be very concerned about having a child pretend to shoot my child with their hand. I would hope the school could talk with that child and explain how that could scare another child and that it is scary. But to suspend a child on the first incident seems extreme. We should be teaching children right from wrong and not using extreme scare tactics. After a few times of talking with the child and if the behavior of guns or violence continues then further measure can be taken.

  36. Melissa D says:

    I work in a play based early learning center and often find myself having to “defend” our stance on play to prospective families. Time and again research has proven the importance of play (to us as educators) and I think that we don’t always do ourselves justice in the explaination of the benefits of play to parents and families. The things you are able to observe in the play interactions is amazing…there is so much happening! It is so important for play to be at the forefront of early learning!

  37. Karlee O says:

    What I appreciated about this chapter and the experts writing was the emphasis on open-ended, self-motivated play. So often as educators I feel we are told how important play is but are given instructions on how to direct and guide play to suit our goals. As a toddler teacher I’m sometimes so focused on “oh I better count these blocks as the child builds” or “I need to point out the sounds each one of these stuffed animals makes” that I forget that it’s ok to just observe the child in their own play without me having to guide their play in a way that they learn what I want them to get out of their play. This type of guided play is ok and certainly a better way for them to learn than through flash cards but its also important for them to play with no goals in mind whatsoever and to let them learn different skills and concepts in their own way.

  38. Jill Baer says:

    As stated in this chapter, it is alarming the number of children who don’t know how to play. In a local parent group, the amount of posts for suggestions on what dance class is great for 2 year olds or why community ed doesn’t have sports for the same age group is countless. Kids are being rushed from one directed activity to another with no time to just be. I had two toddlers start care with me this year who had no prior daycare and no siblings. They are a few months apart. To sit back and watch the two interact was amazing. They babbled to each other, shadowed each other, played together and apart as they wanted. They would mimic each other and showed each other different ways to play with the same objects. When allowed to explore, the ideas were endless and the social skills they were learning are essential. If I had set a structured activity these opportunities would have looked much different and many would not have happened.

  39. Amy Carter says:

    I just loved this. Play self-directed play is huge at our house and in my daycare. I think it’s so important but have had a hard time explaining why. I actually just had someone pull their 2.5 year old out of my daycare because she wanted her son to have more accidemics in her sons day. I found it ridiculous but did not say anything. I think I’ll be adding a few excerpts from this chapter to my enrollment packets explaining why play is so important and that I am a play-based daycare.

  40. Tasha Martin says:

    After the last 10 years of childcare in Wisconsin play has been a huge role in how I ran a childcare center. Through youngstar they fully focus on learn while play and our whole curriculum and daily schedule as to be based around learn while play and movement and motion. I think as a parent I have failed at this fully, I do not do enough at home to encourage play or even encourage learn while play. I focused so much on it at my job at home I was always like just do your thing. I think as they get into school they are structuring them a bit to much straight off in Kindergarden there is so much structure and very little play. I think or at least hope in the long run it will help our children stay more focused and want to learn more and we will see more college graduates.

  41. Arissa Kordell says:

    As a daycare provider and preschool teacher I struggle with the parents wanting their kids to be pushed to learn and bring home preschool sheets every day. When I don’t send home some kind of paper that has what we did on it that day parents question me that I let the kids just play all day. Most parents don’t understand that children learn best through play. In my daycare I let the kids free play several times throughout the day. I love watching them create things out of blocks and legos. It may not seem important to parents but the fact that the kids are learning these skills while playing is so important.
    As i write this blog I’m watching my daughter play. She just sat down on the sit and spin and used it correctly for the first time ever. She’s 14 months old and she figured it out on her own without being directed to it or shown how to do it. By letting her free play on her own she is learning new things. I think if parents watched their kids as often as I do (and I mean truly watch them play) they would see that their kids are learning new things through play and don’t need to bring home preschool homework every day to learn.

  42. Kora says:

    This chapter was interesting and like always had some good points. I knew play was important for kids but I didn’t know how important until I read this. I have a “play based” curriculum in my daycare. I think it is very important for kids to be kids and just play with their toys and each other. As a kid I have very fond memories of the hours and hours just playing with my toys and my brother. The kids need to play, be creative and use their imaginations! It really is sad that childhood is based on their achievements and accomplishments.

  43. Joni Helmeke says:

    This was an interesting chapter for me. Interesting in that children need to play are needed at all, but they are I guess. I agree with the author that achievement and productivity have become to some part of the purpose of childhood and the joy and benefits of play are under-rated or not understood. I enjoyed the video of the commentator a lot. As a teacher, I haven’t done experiments like this where it’s silent and completely individual. Given the time, the children became quite creative and resilient. I noticed that even when some of the children had part of their building fall down, they took it in stride and kept working. I also appreciated the descriptions the children gave of their work. Children are naturally creative, but when they are told what to do or directed in their activities most of the time, they lose some of that instinct. I’ve seen that carried through with some of the college students I worked with in the classroom. They had such a need to please, but needed a lot of guidance to be creative or solve problems on their own, as if they were at a loss to do so.

  44. Laura says:

    Free play is the basis of my program, I do however make my own learning curriculum and I have had one family physically say that they went with another provider based on the fact that they had more academic and structured learning time for their 2 year old. They asked me to change my ways of learning from free play to more strict academic and that is something that I do not believe it so I could not do it to accommodate that family. This is a topic that has come up more than once within training sessions that I have been to. I am a firm believer in the free play learning and having fun to teach children. If you are having fun and playing with the children while teaching them you are surely to have them a absorb more information than strictly drilling the information into the child.

  45. Bobbie S says:

    I enjoyed this chapter, and the videos. I am a big believer that playing is great way to learn. I love to play with the kids we build blocks and its fun to watch a my 2 year old move my hands to where he wants the lego block to go. My 3 year old girl loves to play with dolly hair or my own while I play with the legos with the boys. Each child learns to have all play exisit at the same time so we play lego/house we learn how to play together nicely. I have watched kids go from quite by themselves play to into the group adding their own ideas to the game. I love when they all read stories and make games out of it. Kids have an imagination let it fly and as the adult its fun to watch and to I don’t know about others but I learn something new everyday(not real but new).

  46. Sue says:

    The video was wonderful, these kids are awesome!
    I love free play in my daycare.
    I agree to never withhold recess, everyone needs this.

  47. Terri VanHoudt says:

    we are big on free play here, whether it is magnets, dolls or the sandbox and the water to make a mud kitchen. I think kids need to learn to entertain themselves and be okay with it.

  48. Jessica Kabogoza says:

    I have been working doing in home day care for about 1 year. To say that I have felt immense pressure (a lot of it self imposed) to have a vigorous and highly structured toddler/preschool curriculum would be an understatement. This chapter and especially the YouTube video and commentary took some of the pressure off. The children playing with the building objects was very fascinating to see. Nobody was fighting with each other and they were all very engaged. It was really fun to see them all create something different with fairly inexpensive material. It also inspired me to think about going through my daycare and reorganize the play materials I have. I almost think I have too many things for them to do. I feel I am good at limiting technology to the bare minimum day to day, but I could improve on creating purposeful free play.

  49. Terri VanHoudt says:

    As you know i am a home daycare provider. I have always said that i let kids do things parents wont. kids play in shaving cream, little ones in pudding. We have Magnatiles, the best thing ever invented, hands down!! The kids will play with them for hours. They Love to see how tall they can make the towers and are very proud when they make them taller than themselves. Even my 1 year olds love to play with them. We put them on the metal doors on the house or the fridge and they go right to town moving them around.

    We also have a sandbox in our back yard. I give the kids in the sandbox water in the a.m. and more in the afternoon. I tell them once it is gone, it is gone for that part of the day. They work it out themselves about wasting the water. At first they dumped it all out with in 5 – 10 min. then we started out and done rule. they have learned self control them selves and monitor each other.

    I often struggle with gifts for the family. I want them to look nice for mom and dad, so i have to really really use self control over myself not to correct or hover over.

    All of us in Society Should have a Little More Free Play and maybe we wouldn’t all be so UPTIGHT!

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