Let kids be kids: unstructured play time may be more important than homework

From Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:

Let Kids Just Play: unstructured play time is actually more important than homework.

Children have lost 8 hours per week of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play over the last 2 decades due to homework.

Decrease in unstructured play time is in part responsible for slowing kids’ cognitive and emotional development. Today’s 5-year-olds had the self-regulation capability of a 3-year-old in the 1940s; the critical factor seems to have been not discipline, but play.

Pretend play is particularly beneficial, so make sure kids have ample time for it.


The Case for Saturday School - WSJ.com http://goo.gl/6IBT - We tend to choose the "more" approach when often the smarter one works better.

Image source: Child playing with bubbles. Wikipedia, Steve Ford Elliott, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.


  1. I really doubt there are any sub-5 year old kids losing unstructured play time due to homework. Show me a study where 12 year olds have lost self-regulation capability.

    And I would like to know what's different about today's 5 year olds compared to 1940's 5 year olds. I'm curious to see how this study was performed, how self-regulation was assessed, and how confident they are of child self-regulation reports from the 1940's.

  2. From Twitter:

    @DrWestGRACE: My own kids say they agree!

  3. Kids that are given enough play time seem to be happier and more active as well. Play is somewhat their form of exercise, something they need to stay healthy.

  4. it's not "may"; it _is_ more important. kids today in the US are overly scheduled in & out of school. "play" _is_ learning. interesting reading: sudbury school, john holt, naomi aldort.