Published Online: January 9, 2007
Published in Print: January 10, 2007, as Play Imperiled

Book Review

Play Imperiled

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"Children’s play—their inborn disposition for curiosity, imagination, and fantasy—is being silenced in the high-tech, commercialized world we have created. Toys, about which children once spun elaborate personal fables, now engender little more than habits of passive consumerism. The spontaneous pickup games that once filled neighborhoods have largely been replaced by organized team sports and computer games. Television sitcoms and movie CDs have all but eliminated the self-initiated dramatic play that once mimicked (and mocked) the adult world. Parents, anxious for their children to succeed in an increasingly competitive global economy, regard play as a luxury that the contemporary child cannot afford.

Book cover: The Power of Play
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Over the past two decades, children have lost 12 hours of free time a week, including eight hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities. … The disappearance of play from the lives of our children is mirrored in the media. Television programs rarely depict children as simply playing and having a good time. … Even the cartoons have changed. Fred Flintstone and George Jetson never let work get in the way of having fun. Bob the Builder and SpongeBob SquarePants, on the other hand, love their jobs. SpongeBob was even named employee of the month at the fast-food restaurant where he works. When did life for a child get to be so hard?"

—David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts University and the author of The Hurried Child, from his latest book on the intellectual, social, and emotional benefits of unstructured play. The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children is published by Da Capo Press (; 240 pp., $24 hardback).

Vol. 26, Issue 18, Page 30

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