Getting serious about play: a reading, viewing and resource list


While school officials in the U.S. seem to have done their best in recent decades to eliminate play from the school day, things might be turning around innovative projects like Providence PlayCorps continue to push back against that cultural shift. 

An example of families playing together include the now well known Maker Faires. The Bay Area 2019 Maker Faire is right around the corner (May 17 -19) and the  World Maker Faire is in NYC is in September, 2019.  If you are anywhere near these cities, don’t miss these events. They exhibit ingenuity at its boldest, craziest, and most promising.

Related Related News, March 2019 update. 

This month the town of New Haven debated bringing more play back into the schools, and the U.S Play Coalition hosted the tenth anniversary conference on the value of play. In more positive news, the World Economic Forum, meeting in January 2019, included a session on using play to support the education of children in Africa.

Play Finnish Style?

Finland continues to rank quite high in the happiness of its citizens; could this be because Finnish children are encouraged to play? Whatever the reason, Mississippi Professor Angela Farmer recently shared some lessons we should be learning from Finland. So we wanted to share an opportunity we discovered — a contest where the winner(s) can visit Finland for free! From now until April 14, just create and submit a short film telling Visit Finland who you are, your connection to nature, and why you want to go to Finland. Visit Finland will cover flights, and locals will take you in for a long weekend. Now that’s the kind of play we can all appreciate.


Two journalists in particular have been writing unusually thoughtful articles on the value of play, and the consequences of ignoring it. One is Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic.  The other is Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post. Here are a few of their most on-point stories:

  • A recent report shows that England is stripping the music programs from the public school curriculum. But don’t be discouraged. Here is a listing of 10 top adventure playgrounds in Great Britain, courtesy of the newspaper, The Independent.
  • In a 2014 article entitled “The Overprotected Kid,” Rosin describes a fabulously innovative project called “The Land.” Based in Wales, this playground is designed to let children make and destroy almost anything they can come up with. Sometimes they even burn things up.
  • You can also see videos on The Land project here.
  • A youtube video on Janice O’Donnell’s “loose parts” playgrounds in Providence Rhode Island
  • A 2015 article (and blog) by Strauss on how the decline of playtime might be hampering proper sensory development in children.
  • An August, 2016, article by Strauss on the play gap.
  • Olga Jarrett’s 2013 article, “A Research-Based Case for Recess.
  • A 2014 article in The Atlantic on Finland’s practice of offering students frequent 15-minute breaks for playtime, and how that boosted their academic performance.
  • A 2015 article in U.S. News & Word Report on the lessons that elementary schools could learn, especially for Kindergarten, from multi-faceted early childhood programs. Fittingly, the article is entitled “Building a Solid Foundation.
  • A first-person account by an assoc. professor education about her horrific experience with her daughter’s kindergarten. The article, also published in U.S. News in 2015, is entitled “Learn First, Test Later.” Its subtitle pretty much says it all: “To teach kindergarteners to love learning, stop the rush to assess.”
  • The International Journal of Play, a peer-reviewed journal that publishes (and welcomes) articles, both scholarly and popular, on all facets of play from around the globe.
  • And  a great chart comparing the prior “No Child Left Behind Act” with the “Every Child Succeeds Act,” created by the Obama administration. (The bottom line: broader standards, set by each state instead of the feds, but potentially even more frequent tests.)
  • Last, the grandmother of them all–“The Hurried Child,” by David Elkind, professor of Child Development at Tufts University, published way back in 1981. (Elkind soon followed this book with “The Power of Play,” in 1987.)


A number of organizations have formed that study and gather information on play and child development. 

© 2020 Todd Oppenheimer, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: December 1, 2016