In the United States and in other Western nations there has been a well-documented, dramatic decline, over the last several decades, in children’s freedom to play with other children, in their own chosen ways, without adult direction. Over this same period there has been a dramatic increase in childhood depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, and, according to some research, a decline in empathy and in creativity. In this talk, Prof. Gray will present the logic and evidence behind my claim that the decline in free play is a, if not the, major cause of these deleterious effects on children’s well being, and he will describe some ways to remedy this social tragedy. He will describe the mechanisms by which play promotes children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.
Professor Peter Gray
Research Professor of Psychology, Boston College
Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 7th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books). He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine. Before joining the faculty at Boston College, he earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia College and Ph.D. in biological sciences at the Rockefeller University, and taught at Hunter College and City College in New York.
Why Free Play is Essential to Children’s Healthy Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Development