9 thoughts on “A Time and a Place for Play, Part 2

  1. I love that you highlight the many potential learning benefits of play, even roughhousing. But I think you underestimate adults’ and children’s abilities to learn from play *implicitly*…you seem to presume the learning can and must come explicitly if play is to be beneficial. But the extent to which learning can/does occur through play implicitly or explcitly is an empirical question, not one we should just presume the answer to based on our preset beliefs. One reason to think keeping things implicit can be better: Making things explicit can often undermine the playful nature of the activity, as can scheduling in play time regularly. “Okay, kids, it’s 7pm on tuesday, so you can roughhouse if you want! But let’s stop to talk about your feelings before, during and after” is just not authentic to what play is. Playfulness cannot and should not be scheduled and routinized to such a degree.

    1. Hi Luke,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate your perspective as well, and agree that implicit learning can and should happen. Indeed, I stand behind the ending remark that important life lessons can be learned spontaneously rather than through written curriculum. The main point of part 1 of the essay is just that – adults should stand back and let kids play out their own fantasies, no matter the content. But in the second part I make the point too that kids learn as they interact with each other and with adults whether we deliberately guide them or not — what you call implicit learning. Implicit learning happens everywhere, all the time.

      In the big picture, many adults don’t realize that they naturally do what I write about – they do interact with kids with a balance of playfulness and watchfulness and take advantage of teachable moments as they arise without missing a beat and keeping it light. Those are the situations where learning appears implicit, because it’s not being done on purpose, robotically, rather it just happens and the implicit lesson learned is indeed fun-loving and pro-social.

      However, as I state in my essay, there are cases too where the implicit lesson learned is not pro-social, and its that situation that many folks most fear right now (cancelling recesses to avoid such negativity or keeping children quiet, indoors and away from opportunities for roughhousing to avoid bullying). With that in mind, what I hope my remarks do is get folks thinking in a couple of ways: (a) to realize that roughhousing can be healthy, not a waste of time, nor a breeding ground for bullying; (b) to help folks realize that if they have or know children who are aren’t good at emotion regulation or perspective taking, that there are ways to help those kids mature while doing something fun!

      In short, I do not mean my words to be taken as a one-size-fits-all prescription for all, as it sounds like you took them. I do not mean to imply at all that life should be as scripted as you imply in your remarks – that’s just silly, and really beside the point. Rather, I put the information out there for folks to use if it strikes a cord with them. If the children in your life are implicitly learning to be happy healthy pro-social people, then hooray! I am delighted to hear it. But if they aren’t, then perhaps taking a little time to think about how you can explicitly manage the situation could be useful.

      Again, thanks for visiting. I hope my reply helps clarify my intent.

      1. Hi Erica,
        Thanks for your thoughtful response! That definitely helps clear things up for me. You don’t disagree with the ubiquity and usefulness of implicit learning during play, but are making the point that if there’s evidence that this implicit learning is not pro-social then it may be time to become more explicit, right? That makes total sense to me. I guess it was a matter of emphasis I was taking issue with, but seeing your reasons for writing expressed more explicitly(!) helped me see why you placed a little more of the emphasis on explicit learning, especially in Part II (it also helped me see that you already do talk about implicit learning, more than I had picked up on an initial reading). I especially like what you say in your comment: “many adults don’t realize that they naturally do what I write about – they do interact with kids with a balance of playfulness and watchfulness and take advantage of teachable moments as they arise without missing a beat and keeping it light”. But now it’s clear to me that not everyone has this experience, and so it can be useful to have tools to help children learn through play, and a way to judge if they are learning good stuff (pro-social behaviors). Most of all, I love that you are bringing attention to the cognitive/social/developmental benefits of play (even rough-and-tumble-play!) and offering support for others to see this and engage it in too. Keep up the great work!


  2. I am really happy I found this blog. I will probably reblog some of them, especially those under “parenting”. Have a wonderful day, and good work (we should share our knowledge for sure!)

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About EricaK

As a professor and a parent, I think a lot about education. Turns out that the topics I teach (e.g., cognitive and developmental psychology) inform my thoughts about teaching, and that is what I want to write about here.