Play Can Be Both Powerful and Fun

Children just don't play as much as they used to,'' says Elkind, the author of a new book called, The Power of Play. 'They love it,'' says Elkind, also a Tufts University professor emeritus of child psychology.

His new book, The Power of Play (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $24) underscores a disturbing fact of modern childhood: America's children enjoy less time for creative play than their parents' generation. And that loss affects everything from academic performance to the development of social skill, creativity and independence, Elkind contends.

People sometimes confuse play with physical education. There's a big difference between recess and PE when it comes to child development. "Recess should be free and unstructured play determined by children,'' says Shirley Lewis, president of the Broward County PTA/PTSA. That's a critical distinction, according to Dr. Alan Delameter, director of psychology at the University of Miami Mailman Center for Childhood.

"Play is not led by adults. There are no rules, no fancy gadgets. Play forces kids to rely on their own abilities to not be bored," Delamater says.

Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer, developer of the most popular and most implemented recess program in the United States, Peaceful Playgrounds , acknowledges the importance of free play and unstructured play. "At Peaceful Playgrounds we believe that recess is a child's opportunity to run, jump, play or rest. We have found that through enriching the play environment by adding over 100 painted games and markings to the playground most children will choose to be active." The problem with most school playgrounds is the lack of developmentally appropriate games and markings so that children can self regulate and play appropriately. We found that teaching basic game rules and strategies for solving playground problems makes all the difference in eliminating unnecessary playground conflicts.

Peaceful Playgrounds
has templates and consistent rule books for making the school playground a peaceful place for all.