A few weeks ago, we had our annual Play workshop and for the first time, we added a component about how caregivers feel about play. Earlier in the summer, we shared some of our initial thoughts on the topic and wanted to follow up on our conversation and results from our survey. *
The evidence from our survey and other sources suggest that caregivers do indeed value play.** I have to admit that I was surprised by the evidence because my impression was that caregivers don’t always see the full benefits of play. It made me think that we, the educators, need to dig deeper in order to understand how our caregivers really feel about play.
So, if we all recognize the importance of play then why is play on the decline? Together our group of educators hypothesized what factors may be contributing to this decline.
- There has been a shift in how we parent. The old adage, “It takes a village.” is no longer the case. Today, many caregivers don’t have family and/or neighbors to rely on and according to Allison Gopnik, many of us think of parenting as a job and want to do all the right things so they can mold their child into a successful adult.
- Many caregivers feel compelled to fill their child’s time with structured activities. The variety of choice and intensity in which children participate in adult-led activities leaves little free-time.
- Caregivers are more fearful of sending their children outdoors. Our attitudes about playing outside without adult supervision have changed drastically in recent decades. This reticence limits playtime and opportunities for children to interact on their own.
- There is competition with screen time.
- Success in many of schools today is largely defined as being able to sit still, listen, and test well. Admittedly that is a generalization, but I think it is fair to say that caregivers worry how their children will perform in traditional classrooms where much of the instruction is didactic.
- We also wondered how caregivers defined success and whether they connected play as an element that could help their children grow up to be successful.
At the end of our discussion, we felt we had a better understanding of caregivers and their perspectives. It was clear though that more thinking needed to be done. We wondered how we could help shift not just caregiver perspectives, but the attitudes of policy makers and stakeholders. How can we help these parties recognize the benefits of play?
We shared with the group SEEC’s parent education communication strategy. SEEC tries hard to embed information about play and other topics about early childhood education in our programs. We often use signs and ask our educators to share informally with caregivers during our classes. We also think strategically about the content of family newsletters and social media outlets. We had hoped to delve further into these strategies, but as often happens, we ran out of time. For the future, our team would like to consider other strategies and evaluate how well our current methods are working.
As usual, we would like to hear your thoughts. Do the caregivers with whom you work value play? How can we reach out to caregivers and build partnerships that will support play? How can we get stakeholders to understand that play is learning?
*The survey polled 93 families. Families were invited via SEEC’s family newsletter, school e-mail, and social media outlets.
**Fisher, Kelly R. Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy. Michnick Golinkoff, Roberta. Glick Gryfe, Shelly.(2008). Conceptual split? Parents’ and experts’ perceptions of play in the 21st century. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 305-316. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0193397308000312
O’Gorman, Lyndal. Ailwood, Jo. (November 4, 2012). They Get Fed Up with Playing’: parents’views on play-base learning in the Preparatory Year. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Volume 13, 266 – 273. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2304/ciec.2012.13.4.266
Whitebread, David. Basilio, Marisol. Play, culture and creativity. Retrieved from: https://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/images/pedal/play-culture-article.pdf
Time to Play: A Study on Children’s Free Time: How It is Spent, Prioritized and Valued. (2017). Gallup Poll and Melissa and Doug, August 2017. Gallup USA, Inc. Retrieved from: https://news.gallup.com/reports/214766/gallup-melissa-doug-time-to-play-report-2017.aspx
Parents’ Play Perspectives. (2015). The Genius of Play and PlayScience, October 2015. The Genius of Play. Retrieved from: https://www.thegeniusofplay.org/app_themes/tgop/pdfs/research/PlayScience102015.pdf