Einstein May Never Have Used Flashcards …..
…… but He Probably Built Forts
Why one Harvard alum is part of a growing movement to bring play back into the lives of children
by Lory Hough
In some ways, this headline is almost funny, the idea of a young Einstein, wild hair flying, throwing his mother’s quilt over a couple of chairs and crawling underneath. But to Elizabeth Goodenough, M.A.T.’71, a headline like this is not a joke. We’re a busy-by-design society that’s become so concerned with turning kids into baby Einsteins that something critical to childhood, something that Goodenough holds sacred, is fast becoming extinct: free play. She says that all you have to do is drive around American cities and towns to see for yourself; there are very few kids outside.
It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that one of the biggest factors in the loss of free play has to do with parents being programmed by the ever-expanding “baby educating industry” into thinking that in order to survive in today’s global economy, kids need to be better, brighter, and busier than ever before.
“It’s a competitive foot race from the womb, this sense that you’ll miss out,” Goodenough says. “Adults have picked up the pace so quickly. What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?”
In an age where we clearly know more about how brains operate and how humans function, parents take parenting seriously. As a 2001 article in The Atlantic Monthly stated, “Your child is the most important extra-credit arts project you will ever undertake.” As a result, by the time these baby wonders reach college, they’ve become goal-oriented, resume-building “organization kids” who “work their laptops to the bone.” What adults need to understand, writes Michael Meyerhoff, Ed.M.’75, Ed.D.’84, in his booklet The Power of Play, is that free play isn’t a waste of time — it actually helps children learn.