Standardised systems of education often hamper children’s full development. The focus on narrow academic outcomes suits some, but too many never discover their personal talents and interests. Young people are also under inordinate pressures from ‘high stakes’ testing and assessment. These are called high stakes because they have stark implications for their own progress and, often, for their schools and teachers. The consequence is that even young children are spending more and more time doing homework and studying for exams.
They pay a high price in other ways, including the loss of time for ‘real play’ and just being kids. By real play, I mean unstructured, physical play, mostly outdoors, where children follow their curiosity, and invent and enjoy spontaneous games. This has been shown to have profound physical, emotional and social benefits. Real play also develops the neural pathways upon which other forms of learning depend. Play facilitates critical life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and creativity. Active play is the natural and primary way that children learn.