This past December Dr. Peter Gray from Boston College came to speak to the Newburyport community about the positive effects of play for children. The interest in this speaker came from a local parent who had heard about the Let Grow initiative out of Utah. There, the courts changed the definition of childhood neglect after questions of whether or not kids should be allowed to play alone in the park.
Dr. Gray presented his position, from years of research, that the decrease of play and the increase in mental health disorders is no coincidence. He explained how when children engage in self-chosen, self-directed play, they learn to create and direct their own activities, solve their own problems, negotiate, compromise and cooperate. All of which are now being taught as part of social emotional learning curriculum in school because children are lacking these basic skills. Gray also argues that play helps develop more than just social skills but can also help in many areas of development including physical, intellectual, moral, emotional and personal.
The Let Grow Foundation provides support and ideas to parents, schools and towns who want to encourage “free-range parenting” in their communities. Newburyport will be exploring ways to encourage this model of play this upcoming spring. Stay tuned!