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The Values of Outdoor Play

by David Elkind
September/October 2006
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/the-values-of-outdoor-play/5017106/

Childhood is moving indoors. Over the last two decades alone, children have lost 12 hours of free time a week, and eight of those lost hours were once spent in unstructured play and outdoor activities. In contrast, the amount of time children spend in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote to passive spectator leisure (not counting television, but including watching sports), has increased five fold — from 30 minutes to over three hours.1 The public schools are not helping, and an increasing number of elementary schools are eliminating recess or are considering doing so.2 At least one rationale for cutting recess is to allow more time for academics. This negative attitude toward play reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what children need for healthy mental, physical, and social/emotional growth.

Play, learning, and development

Freud was once asked what was required for a full, happy, and productive life.

He answered, "Lieben und Arbeiten" (loving and working). With all due respect to Freud, I would add "Spielen" (playing). Play, love, and work are the innate drives that power human thought and action throughout the life cycle. Play is the drive to transform the world to meet our personal needs. The infant, to ...

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