ALL Children Deserve Play

I’ve been busy behind the pages of this blog.

Between conferences and workshops and the planning meetings that accompany those trainings, a common topic emerged, something I’ve been mulling over a bit. It is this: Is play as a valuable part of early childhood classrooms more likely to be challenged when applied to low-income populations – children who may be viewed as “behind?” Is it harder to get support for developmentally appropriate practices for children who need the most developmental support?

I shared the observation via Instagram and Facebook, and the questions are still rumbling around in my brain. So, I decided to continue the conversation by sharing the post here as well.

I would love to hear your thoughts and observations.

Over the past week, I’ve had different conversations with different professionals in different states serving different demographics.

But one common thread emerged: Often play is accepted as a powerful driver for development and learning…UNLESS children are viewed as “behind.” Then these advocates are met with more resistance.

I don’t personally assign any malevolent intention in these instances. I think it’s an example of “wanting to help so badly” that we actually end up giving help “badly.”

It’s interesting to me that the data we reference to support play-based, high-quality early childhood education – data that show long-term, positive benefits – are derived from studies often done in economically disadvantaged populations. Yet, the methods they support are often more easily found among the affluent.

Likewise, pioneers in the early education field like Montessori and Vygotsky established their work demonstrating the benefits of their methods in populations that had, in many regards, been excluded from education or even thought of as unteachable. Children who supposedly couldn’t “catch up” proved everyone wrong

.And yet, there are some who believe that those who are “behind” or “disadvantaged” or “other” need more flash cards and worksheets and drilling to “catch up.”

To “catch up” to the children who are playing.

The dissonance is astounding.

As Erika Christakis questions, “Are we willing as a society to outsource young children’s imagination to the affluent, like an offshore tax shelter?”

There are no “other” kids in this scenario.

ALL children need play.

ALL children benefit from play.

ALL children deserve play.

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