Why Play Is Essential For Children: Psychologist Peter Gray Sounds the Alarm About Excessive Adult Oversight & What It’s Doing to Kids’ Mental Health

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Research psychologist Peter Gray discusses the decline of free, unstructured play in children and its impact on mental health. Gray argues that the decrease in children’s independent play since the 1960s has led to marked declines in resilience, increased anxiety, and depression. He challenges the notion that smartphones and social media are the main cause of these issues, instead attributing them to the limitations imposed by adults on children’s independence. Gray advocates for fostering more independence and resilience in children through initiatives such as play clubs and increasing opportunities for unstructured play in communities and schools.

Let the Children Play: For the Learning, Well-Being, and Life Success of Every Child
  • Hardcover Book
  • Sahlberg, Pasi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/22/2020 (Publication Date) – OUP Oxford (Publisher)

Key Takeaways

  • Free, unstructured play is essential for children’s mental health and development. It helps them acquire life skills, make friends, and solve problems independently.
  • The decline of children’s opportunities for independent play since the 1960s has corresponded with an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide among children and adolescents.
  • The modern era has seen a shift towards overscheduled, adult-supervised activities for children, leading to less time for unstructured play, reduced recess and lunch periods at school, and an emphasis on academic performance over holistic development.

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Pike Mall Tech: 11 May 2022

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Today’s Links

Rethinking the Honor Roll

It’s time for educators to make honor a core value in schools. It’s time to build honor into our curriculums and establish it as one of the primary social and emotional learning goals we work to help students achieve.

Thomas Guskey

Full disclosure: I am a reformed honor roll student. I made that list all the freaking time, save for my middle school years.

Why not in middle school? Because I refused to do homework. It was pointless for me. I didn’t need the work and did just fine on any and all exams. But my middle school teachers insisted on grading homework, of which there was more than a metric ton each night.

I had better things to do, like read comics. Or watch Jeopardy. Or Star Trek reruns.

So, like many other students, I missed out on the perks of being on the “honor roll” that many of my friends were enjoying. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I lost some friends because I wasn’t on the honor roll.

Personally, the idea of the honor roll disgusts me. And it’s probably time we get rid of it.


Students don’t make the honor roll for any number of reasons. Whether it’s because they simply don’t care about getting the grades because they realize for most people the grade they got in 10th-grade geometry is no indicator of success in life or because their life away from school isn’t set up to support a great learning environment, many students just don’t care about the honor roll.


Let’s also think about the lengths that some students are willing to go to earn a spot on the honor roll. Yes, some will cheat. I’d venture to say that a student’s desire to cheat is directly proportional to their pressure to get good grades.

And how many students will lose precious sleep to stay up and cram information so they can “brain dump” on a test to get the grade?

Trust me, folks, sleep is way more important than a high GPA.



Perhaps it’s time we either get rid of the honor roll altogether or rethink the purpose it serves. Maybe we should focus on teaching students what honor really is and how to do work that is worthy of honor, not just a grade.


Stop Cancelling Recess

I admit I have taken recess time away from students. OK, maybe not recess time since we didn’t have recess in my middle school but we certainly incentivized certain achievements with a “recess reward”.

Yes, we even used recess as a reward for students who achieve our version of the honor roll.

What a horrible policy. Kids need time to play, at every age level. And using the excuse of placing them in an “activity” class doesn’t cut it.

They need time to decompress and just goof off. I’m 45 and I need time to do that every day.

Recess is an essential part of childhood (and adulthood) and we have to stop taking it away. Some states are moving to create laws to protect that time.

Which is pretty awesome.


Linkus Randomus


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Currently writing:

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