Does Valuing Play Mean We’re Romanticizing the Past?

Contributed by JC Boushh

Last week I attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference and had the opportunity to not only lecture on the value of free-play for children, but to also here many fellow advocates who share my beliefs in the importance of children’s play. I also learned that NAEYC is in the process of organizing a panel to prepare an official position on children’s play, and in NAEYC’s infinite wisdom and business-like fashion they seemed to have forgotten to invite Play, Policy, & Practice Interest Forum and The American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA) onto the panel. There seems to be a feeling that many of us play advocates romanticize play and therefore never think about the modern state of play. To value children’s free-play and to sound the alarm when the state of play is being jeopardized is far from romanticizing play, but is letting people know that learning and play walk hand in hand in relationship to child development.

I have heard the statement that “We shouldn’t make waves”, but if we are not making waves doesn’t that mean were sitting still in the water. I agree that the state of play has changed dramatically due to technology, No Child Left Behind, Liability, and Societal Fears, but does that mean we should just through our hands in the air and forget about the next generation of children? Being an advocate for children means that you’re not always appreciated by those in power, but it does mean that you value those you are advocating for. I agree that we should never romanticize or live in the past, but when the conditions of children’s free-play are in such jeopardy then it’s up to us advocates to make waves. Sometimes I wonder how we ask children to do what we would never think of doing as adults. Maybe it’s time children and free-play had its own union to protect their childhoods.