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Transcript: Peter Gray on the Decline of Play at TEDxNavesink

Play is where they learn to get along with peers and see from others’ points of view, and practice empathy, and get over narcissism. Play is by definition creative and innovative. Of course, if you take away play, all these things are going to go down. And yet, the human cry that we hear everywhere is for more school, not for more play. And we’ve got to — we’ve really got to change that.

So, I’m told that it’s always good to end on a positive note. I don’t want to be the only depressing speaker here.

So, I’m going to say: Look, let’s admit this is our fault. We have done this to the children in this world. Let’s start by admitting that.

But then let’s say, we can do something about it. The first thing we need to do is to recognize that it’s a problem. And once we’ve recognized that’s a problem, then we need to figure out how to solve that problem. We need to have an internal sense of control and know that we can solve this problem.

We have to begin by examining our own priorities. What do we really want for our kids? And how do we achieve it? We have to get to know our neighbors, develop neighborhood networks, because it’s in neighborhoods that children make friends and develop playmates. By getting to know our neighbors, we can convince ourselves that the neighborhood, after all, is a safe place to play, that neighbor isn’t a child molester after all, once we get to know him.

We need also to establish places for children to play, they have kind of disappeared, we have even taken away sidewalks. We need to do things like open up gymnasiums, school gymnasiums after school for free play. We need to do things like put a supervisor in the park, so parents will feel it’s safe enough to leave their kid there to play. A supervisor who knows how to keep things safe enough, but not intervene or interfere.

We need to do things like close off city streets during certain hours, so kids can once again reclaim the street as a place to play. And we need to do things like develop adventure playgrounds of the kind that are relatively common in Europe and becoming once again more so. And perhaps, most of all, we need to be brave enough to stand up against the continuous clamor for more schooling. Our children don’t need more school. They need less school. Maybe they need better school, but they don’t need more school.

So with that I am going to conclude, and I thank you very much for coming, I bless you and I hope that you will all do what you can to help bring play back to your neighborhood and to children everywhere.

Thank you.

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