FREE PLAY: Play is The Work of Childhood

Childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life.



School systems and pre-schools across the nation are under a pressure to teach, test, push down academics and introduce instruction that is somehow not serving the young children’s true needs. So, how do we achieve that? It’s only possible when we, the educators, take children’s playtime seriously that eventually helps them feel the joy found in the creative spirit.

It’s important what a child plays with and the people who help them play, as that makes a great difference in their lives. It is time to stand against the academic push down; it is time to fight for their recess; it is time to put a stake in the ground in the name of irrational academia.

As an ECE educator, ask yourself – How do you prioritize Play for children? And then, take a stand and become committed to the truth of Play, considering it the most profound and rich curriculum that can be offered to young children. Be assured that playtime can teach them creativity, leadership, problem solving, emotional intelligence, morality, ethics, organizing, and much more.  

In such a competitive world, we worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that they are someone today. By education, I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and eventually, an adult. I am more interested in arousing enthusiasm in a child than in teaching the facts. The study-related facts may change with time, but their enthusiasm to explore the world will remain with them for the rest of their lives. As a teacher, I always believe that instead of books and lectures, Mother Nature is children’s best study material. 


While it is important to educate children, what is more pressing is the need to love them and allow them to play. When education becomes more important than love and Play, please note that it is no longer educating them at all. It’s not important what children learn while playing, but what they won’t learn if we don’t give them the chance to Play.

Many functional skills like literacy art, arithmetic can be learnt either through Play or through instructions. However, many coping skills like compassion, self-regulation, self-confidence, the habit of active engagement, the motivation to learn and be literate cannot be instructed. They can only be harnessed through self-directed experience that is Play.

For a small child, there is no difference between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns simply by just living and any part of living that is enjoyable is Play.

If we love our students and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to Play. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction that solely focuses on the school syllabus, more testing, more directive for adulthood, and less opportunity for free play.

If you trust Play as I do, you will not have to control your student’s development as much. Playtime will raise the child in ways you can never imagine. Play is the shortest route between children and their creative calling. Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. Hence, play creates intelligence.


Nitu Gandhi: Preschool Educator at Priyalok Vilas School, ECA: life member and secretary of RAJKOT territory, 10+ years of experience.


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