The Essential Role of Play in School Contexts for the Well-Being of Children The Essential Role of Play in School Contexts for the Well-Being of Children

Sandra Stone
This article affirms the essential role of play for the well-being of children within the school context. The article explores the definition of play, why play is so important, gives examples of play in schools, and advocates for a child-centered approach to learning. The downside of a curriculum-centered approach is explored as an agent of anti-well-being for children. Standards and standardized tests are toxic to children's healthy growth and development, crowding out or eliminating play from
more » ... schools. The article advocates for a place for play in schools in order to promote the well-being of every child. Play is essential for all children. It is not just important, a good thing to provide for children, an enjoyable experience for children-It is LIFE ESSENTIAL for children! A NECESSITY for the well-being of children! In the 1800s, John Dewey, the father of progressive education in the United States, criticized the factory model approach to education, which controlled schooling in the 19th century. Schools became the instrument for preparing children to fit into an industrialized society (Stone, 2004). Dewey (1938) described this approach as "mechanical," with uniform curriculum and methods. He was genuinely concerned about the "well-being of children" who became "products" on the conveyor belt of education, instead of unique and valued individuals. Now in the 21st century, some types of schooling are still manipulating children as products instead of individuals; schooling, for some, is not about children learning and meeting the needs of the whole child, but it is narrowed to prescribed "standards" in a corporate modeling of education with expressed goals that do not include the "well-being" of children. The impact of standards-based education and the accompanying benchmarks of approved learning and standardized, high-stakes testing, polarizes some education models into a frigid zone which does not allow children to thrive as learners and human beings, and certainly does not value the well-being of the child in the school context. Miller and Almon (2011) agree that this approach with its "uniformity and mechanistic perfection" is inappropriate and that a "mechanical view of the human being cannot succeed" (p. 3). Diane Ravitch (2010) states that, "schools will surely be failures if students graduate knowing how to choose the right option from four bubbles on a multiple-choice test, but unprepared to lead fulfilling lives. . ." (p. 224). She begs the question as to what do we want for our children when we send them to school? Do we want them to think of schooling as places of "drudgery, worksheets, test preparation, and test taking?" (p. 231). Educators and physicians are concerned about increasing the stress children are