Bengaluru: Play is far more valuable for children’s mental growth than academic training, according to a noted thought leader in education, Peter Gray. “We look at play traditionally as a recess, but it is far more than that and is crucial in a child’s overall development,” says Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College in the US.
Play, he said at a recent international summit on early years hosted by KLAY (Kids Learning And You) Prep Schools and Day Care, raises the level of creativity as it involves some element of imagination. Moreover, academic training should never be an excuse to not let children play as it takes away their opportunity to learn from self-chosen and self-directed play, Gray said as he emphasised the importance of play in children’s lives.
“Adults should understand that though they think of educating children a certain way, children usually learn by observing their surroundings and explore the world in their own way,” he further said. Gray has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education.
He is the author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology book (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 8th 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. Gray 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 of Life.’
Meghna Yadav, Head – Training And Development, KLAY said, in addition to working on ‘What & How’ of pedagogical functioning, a preschool educator needs to focus on ‘Why’ element of teaching. A teacher needs to know the reason behind singing songs and doing art & craft with young children for instance, she said.
“This therefore calls for a formal training programme of international standards that has been curated by established institutes for teacher training, ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) techniques and career mapping for teachers across anganwadis and private preschools in India,” she added.