How to Raise Passionate Kids: The Value of Free Play

July 12, 2023

Peter Gray, PhD. is a research professor at Boston College in Psychology and Neuroscience, whose recent work focuses primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the value of play from an evolutionary perspective. He is the author of Free to Learn, a book in which he argues that our children, if free to pursue their interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know but will do so with energy and passion. He has also published many academic articles on play and self-directed education.

In this podcast, Dr Peter Gray makes the case that free play is the primary way children learn to solve problems, control their lives, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. And by contrast, he discusses the downsides of our traditional education system, which leaves many children bored, prone to misbehaviour, and seeing life as a series of hoops to struggle through. Please visit Peter on his Substack, where he writes about how play makes us human and how we might bring more playfulness into our lives and those of others.

Here’s the outline of this episode with Peter Gray:

[00:00:11] First podcast with Peter Gray: Free to Learn: Unleashing the Instinct to Play.

[00:00:25] Peter Gray's Substack.

[00:00:31] What is play?

[00:03:40] Becoming interested in the topic of play.

[00:05:30] Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA. 

[00:08:50] Peter's book: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, by Peter Gray.

[00:09:30] Why play is important.

[00:11:04] Book: The Play of Animals, by Karl Groos.

[00:11:58] Book: The Play of Man, by Karl Groos.

[00:14:18] Study: Gray, Peter. "Play as a foundation for hunter-gatherer social existence." American Journal of play 1.4 (2009): 476-522.

[00:20:59] Time in school vs time out of school.

[00:21:25] Article: Children's Risk of Suicide Increases on School Days.

[00:22:40] 2014 APA Study: Stress in America.

[00:25:35] Study: Gray, Peter. "How Children Coped in the First Months of the Pandemic Lockdown: Free Time, Play, Family Togetherness, and Helping Out at Home." American Journal of Play 13.1 (2020): 33-52.

[00:33:12] The value of risky play.

[00:36:20] Adult-directed sports vs child-directed play; Substack: Why Adult-Directed Sports Are No Substitute for Kid-Directed Play.

[00:40:30] Book: Finite and Infinite Games, by James Carse.

[00:41:22] The value of age-mixed play.

[00:43:56] Article: Gray, Peter. "The Special Value of Children's Age-Mixed Play." American Journal of Play 3.4 (2011): 500-522.

[00:49:28] Scaffolding metaphor; Substack: #10. The Special Value of Age-Mixed Play I: How Age Mixing Promotes Learning

[00:53:01] How much time to play is enough?

[00:53:35] Study: Gray, Peter. "The value of a play-filled childhood in development of the hunter-gatherer individual." Evolution, early experience and human development: From research to practice and policy (2012): 352-370.

[00:59:17] Kids and screens.

[01:08:56] Family vacations.

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