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The Case For Play


Serious Play for Serious Girls

The Case For Play

A Serious Game of Double Dutch submitted by Playworks www.playworks.org 2

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The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

The Case for Play The Case for Play

Table of Contents Categories:

1. Introduction 2. Definitions of Play 3. Creative Play 4. How Play Shapes Our Understanding of the World 5. Effort & Play Quality 6. Play & Neurology 7. Play & Intellectual Development 8. Play & Emotional Development 9. Play & Social Development 10. Rough & Tumble Play 11. TV, Play, & Screen Media 12. How Marketing Shapes Play 13. How Toys Shape Play 14. Play & Gender 15. Play, Psychological Trauma, & our Ability to Adapt 16. Play & Education 17. The Case for Recess 18. Sports & Outdoor Play 19. Art, Music & Play 4

Introduction Play is Serious... While we were hard at work researching the interconnected issues threatening the lifelong wellbeing of girls (for The Threats to Girlhood Report), creative play began to emerge as one of the most effective, undeniable, clinically-proven, mother-approved solutions to radically overcoming the issues facing our girls- neurologically, psychologically, sociologically, physiologically… We discovered that play is key to girls’ success in STEM fields, to overcoming relational aggression, improving confidence, reducing high school dropout rates, reducing in-school violence, overcoming gender stereotypes, developing problem solving skills, becoming self-motivated and introspective, choosing right-fit educational and career paths that work to children’s strengths and help them lead fulfilling lives… Unrestricted, unstructured, creative play has the power to help girls radically overcome the issues threatening their lifelong wellbeing. When girls are hindered from playing- when they passively absorb entertainment instead of actively generating their own amusement, when they’re deprived of art and music in school, when they miss out opportunities to create and invent and exercise their imaginations- their lack of play actually contributes to the issues limiting their abilities to succeed at life. In concrete terms: television, video games, funding cuts for arts education, the loss of recess in our schools, over-scheduling, our education system’s shift away from creative learning and toward rote learning and memorization, and our lack of safe community play spaces are just of few of the issues actively creating Threats to Girlhood by hindering play. Once we had uncovered the power of play, we set to work on compiling the research on play to create a field-guide. An in the trenches guidebook outlining the commendable work researchers and play experts have conducted on play, so it can be strategically used by teachers and parents to make the case for playful learning and recess in schools; by activists, community members, and politicians make the case for social 5


Serious Play for Serious Girls

and educational policy that preserves, respects, funds, and incorporates creative play; by play activists and teachers to articulate the relevance of playful learning programs and activities, rallying community, and aid their grant-writing and fundraising efforts; and by toy designers and marketers trying to understand how toys can be used to positively facilitate creative play, rather than hinder it.

The Case For Play

To help show why Serious Play matters and what Serious Play looks like, we’ve also compiled an international crowd-sourced photointerpretation of Serious Play. The illustrations throughout this report are the interpretations of Serious Play submitted by activists, parents, teachers, and not-for-profit organizations working to preserve, protect, and facilitate Serious Play in our communities.

Santa Catalina School’s varsity lacrosse squad shares a moment before taking the field to enjoy the fun and excitement of playing a sport they love. www.santacatalina.org

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Serious Play for Serious Girls

Introductory Facts on Play Children who play do better in school and become more successful adults.1 Creative play helps nurture and develop skills that are necessary for academic, professional, and social success throughout a child’s life. Creative play helps foster proactive problem-solving skills, critical and independent thinking, empathy and the ability to relate to others, the ability to work well with others, and the ability to reflect on and learn from life experiences2 “…play is the foundation of intellectual exploration. It’s how children learn to learn. Abilities essential for academic success and productivity in the workforce, such as problem solving, reasoning, and literacy, all develop through various kinds of play, as do social skills such as cooperation and sharing.”3 “Play is essential to the development of creativity, empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, and making meaning.”4 “Play- so central to health and well-being- was once children’s default leisure activity, but we can no longer assume that to be true. Nor should we under-estimate the ramifications of this shift.”5 “Art, music, cures for disease, new technologies, the plots, themes, and language for poems, novels, songs, and plays, as well as resolutions for conflict are all rooted in creative play.”6

1 The Strong National Museum of Play. “About Play,” http://www.thestrong.org/about-play 2 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.” New York: The New P., 2008. p.11-23. 3 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 11 4 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 26 5 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 25-6 6 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P 23 8

The Case For Play

Play “develops confident, flexible minds that are open to new possibilities; develops creativity, resilience, independence, and leadership; strengthens relationships and empathy; helps grow strong healthy bodies and reduces stress.”7 Through play children learn to: question, predict, hypothesize, evaluate, and analyze; form and substantiate opinions; and persist through adversity.8 “It’s worth emphasizing that when these studies talk about play, they’re really talking about free play, the unstructured kind, in which kids can do anything they want. They’re not merely participating in games overseen by adults that have preset, unchanging rules.”9 Article 31 of The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child declared: “That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreation activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”10 “While the original intention for the inclusion of article 31 is understood to have been rooted in concern for working children, the International Play Association (instrumental in the inclusion of the word ‘play’ in the UNCRC) has always held a much broader view; recognizing the full range of benefits of play for all children worldwide. Research has established that play contributes to brain development, creates flexibility, enhances creativity, and builds resilience to stress. The connection between play and children’s well-being has been made with some authority by numerous researchers. Ultimately the opposite of play is not work, it is no play. And no play can be devastating for children.”11 7 The Strong National Museum of Play. “About Play,” http://www.thestrong.org/about-play 8 The Strong National Museum of Play. “About Play,” http://www.thestrong.org/about-play 9 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 111 10 International Play Association. “Global Consultants on Children’s Right to Play: UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31. IPA World. “UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31” September 22, 2009. http://article31.ipaworld.org/IPA%20World,%20 IPA,%20International%20Play%20Association,%20Article%2031,%20UN%20Article%20 31,%20Rights%20of%20the%20Child/united-nations/ 11 International Play Association. “Global Consultants on Children’s Right to Play: UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31.” September 22, 2009.

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Serious Play for Serious Girls

Definitions of Play “Childhood is where it all begins, the time of life when play comes naturally. It is the foundation of what we do for the rest of our lives.” 12 Play “is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder- in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization.”13 “I sometimes compare play to oxygen- it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”14 “Probably the best definition amounts to a list of descriptors: play is unstructured, freely chosen by the child, personally directed and motivated, active and engaging, and exploratory.”15 “Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity…. an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time.”16 Dr. Wendy Russell… “the way I see play is as a disposition to the world, a way of creating a world that is as ordered or as fantastical as the player chooses, in which a range of emotions can be experienced in relative safety (because it is ‘only playing’). There is more to playing than learning things children will need to do when they’re grownup. Actually, it’s more important than that. Playing is what makes life worth living, and that’s good for children now as well as in the future. It is an effective and usually enjoyable mechanism for developing attachments to friends and places, for being able to cope with uncertainty and the unknown and for developing an open mind to the world too.”17

“Play is your child’s work.  Through play children practice the basic skills needed in the classroom--and in life.  Guided play in the right environment will help your child gain the tools she needs to sharpen her thinking, and heighten her sensitivity.”18 12 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 80 13 Stuart Brown, M.D., “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 11-2 14 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 6 15 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 105 16 Stuart Brown, M.D., “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009.P. 60 17 Dr. Wendy Russell. Definition of Play, submitted via email; Thursday, December 8th 2011. 18 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD 10

The Case For Play

“Play among young children is child-directed, purposeful, and often involves pretense. Play is positive and does not include negative social behaviors. Play may involve individuals or groups and typically includes the manipulation of real or imagined objects.  Play may be collaborative and socio-dramatic (e.g., working together to build a spaceship for travel to the moon) as well as parallel (i.e, similar play activities next to peers without collaboration), solitary (i.e., individual play) or on-looker (i.e., watching peers engaged in play) in nature. Play is reinforcing, fun, and supports social and cognitive development. Children learn through play.”19 “Unstructured” or “Free Play”- a definition. In spite of the complexity and diversity of play behaviour, there is general agreement by specialists in the field that play is controlled by children rather than adults, and that it is undertaken for its own sake and not for prescribed purposes. The term ‘free play’ is often used to distinguish this from organized recreational and learning activities, which of course also have important roles in child development. However, the characteristics of free play – such as control, uncertainty, flexibility, novelty, non-productivity – are what produce a high degree of pleasure and, simultaneously, the incentive to continue to play. Recent neurological research indicates that this type of behaviour plays a significant role in the development of the brain’s structure and chemistry. Emerging research suggests that childcontrolled play may in fact represent a vital evolved behaviour that is necessary for optimal physical and emotional functioning.”20 “It is games that give us something to do when there is nothing to do. We thus call games ‘pastime’ and regard them as trifling fillers of the intersections of our lives. But they are much more important than that. They are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.”

Bernard Suits

19 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.”Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 20 International Play Association. “Global Consultants on Children’s Right to Play: UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31.” September 22, 2009. http://article31. ipaworld.org/IPA%20World,%20IPA,%20International%20Play%20Association,%20 Article%2031,%20UN%20Article%2031,%20Rights%20of%20the%20Child/unitednations/ 11


Serious Play for Serious Girls

Creative Play When researchers and play advocates talk about creative play, fantasy play, and pretend play, they’re talking about the kind of play where children suspend their disbelief and play within an imaginary world of their own creation. They’re talking about the kind of play that allows children to create imaginary rules and scenarios. They’re talking about tea parties, Cowboys and Indians, doll play, playing astronaut, dress up, building a fort to withstand a zombie attack, playing house, unscripted improv theatrical productions, building a racetrack for toy cars and deciding which cars will crash and which car will win… This type of play is unstructured and it’s guided, controlled, and directed by the child.

The Case For Play

“Play is a crucial aspect of healthy development. Children are active learners who acquire new knowledge by examining and exploring their environment. Play promotes young children’s thinking, language and mathematics ability, problem-solving skills, memory, and attention.”25 When children are role playing, they’re engaging and honing a host of skills necessary for successfully navigating the world around them. During role playing children “create new rules, negotiate roles and plans, substitute objects for other things, use their language and reasoning skills and imaginations, and learn to cooperate.”26 “Through play, children actively turn their environments into anything and everything-weddings, schoolrooms, castles. Through this rich dramatic play, imaginations develop.”27

Creative play that allows children to generate ideas and exercise their imagination is what “fosters divergent thinking, the capacity to think ‘outside the box,’” and the lifelong ability to imagine “ideas and solutions to problems that go beyond convention.”21 Because play is how children learn to learn, and how they develop a love for learning and exploration, the skills learned through creative fantasy play effect a child’s lifelong abilities. For example, “Employees who have engaged in play throughout their lives outside work and bring that emotion to the office are able to do well at work-related tasks that at first might seem to have no connection at all to play.”22

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

Einstein actually conceived of the idea for his Theory of Relativity while “imagining himself riding on a streetcar traveling at the speed of light.”23 Creative play affords children “the opportunity to learn invaluable skillsto immerse themselves in experience, solve problems, create possibilities where none exist, learn what it’s like to be someone else, and make something new from that which already exists.”24 21 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 41 22 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 9 23 In: Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 93. 24 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P 22-3 12

25 Dr. Isabelle Cherney and Dr. Michael W. Barry. “Child’s Play: It’s Serious Business.” The Council on Contemporary Families, August 2, 2009. http://www.contemporaryfamilies. org/children-parenting/play.html 26 Dr. Isabelle Cherney and Dr. Michael W. Barry.  “Child’s Play: It’s Serious Business.” The Council on Contemporary Families, August 2, 2009. http://www.contemporaryfamilies. org/children-parenting/play.html 27 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 13


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

Play expert Stuart Brown explains in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, that “Allowing kids to play…doesn’t mean that there is no structure to their time. Part of the license to play freely comes from being in an environment that is structured to provide a feeling of safety, so that the child is confident that nothing bad is going to happen. Part of the freedom to alter the natural order of things (“Let’s say this car can fly”; “Let’s throw all the Legos in a big pile on the floor and see what we can make from them”) is the knowledge that order will be restored again afterward.”28 Creative play allows children to grow, adapt, evolve, and transform. It also helps children understand themselves and the world around them. “Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player. It emerges from the imaginative force within. That’s part of the adaptive power of play: with a pinch of pleasure, it integrates our deep physiological, emotional, and cognitive capacities. And quite without knowing it, we grow. We harmonize the influences within us. Where we may have felt pulled in one direction by the heart and another direction by the head, play can allow us to find a balanced course or a third way. All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.” 29 Dr. Isabelle Cherney has found that play has profoundly “important consequences for children’s learning and socialization.” Her research shows that, for young children, play “seems to work best when it is not scripted or organized by adults. Data suggests that young children need a variety of activities that allow them to actively create and expand their play ‘scripts.’ Both parents and child-care workers should encourage more unscripted and outdoor play. Our research also suggests that adults should provide open-ended opportunities and a comfort zone for children to play with toys and engage in activities that cut across gender stereotypes.”30 28 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 97 29 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 104 30 Dr. Isabelle Cherney and Dr. Michael W. Barry. “Child’s Play: It’s Serious Business.” The Council on Contemporary Families, August 2, 2009. http://www.contemporaryfamilies. org/children-parenting/play.html 14

Wakeboarding as Serious Play. Submitted by Amy JusselPlay. at Shaping Youth Wakeboarding as Serious www.shapingyouth.org Submitted by Amy Jussel at Shaping Youth: www.shapingyouth.org 15


Serious Play for Serious Girls

How Play Shapes Our Understanding of the World Play affords children a means to begin exploring and understanding the world around them… Frederich Froebel is a 19th century German educator whose theories helped shape our modern education system and is still considered one of the most influential thinkers on education and play. He’s fondly regarded as the father of kindergarten. Froebel based his education theories on the premise that “play is basically how children learn about the world and prepare to take their place in it….Play is the work of children…It’s how they prepare themselves to be grown-ups.”31 Modern play experts unanimously confirm Froebel’s long-held premise that play shapes our world view.

The Case For Play

to buy Barbie a wedding dress. What she did say often was ‘Education is power.’ And in case I missed the point, she bought graduation outfits for each of my dolls.”34 “toys convey a great deal about how adults wish children to grow up, and…toys prepare us for the roles we wish children to think of as “natural”35 Sherrie A. Inness Dr. Stuart Brown has found that storytelling is one of the play experiences that helps shape our world-views. In his book Play-How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” he explains that “Storytelling has been identified as the unit of human understanding. It occupies a central place in early development and learning about the world, oneself, and one’s place in it.”36

Stuart Brown confirms that “from our play we learn how the world works, and how friends interact. By playing, we learn about the mystery and excitement that the world can hold in a tree house, an old tire swing, or a box of crayons.”32

“Our children read back print that is part of their everyday lives.”37

“When we engage in fantasy play at any age, we bend the reality of our ordinary lives, and in the process germinate new ideas and ways of being. For adults, daydreams may give rise to new ways of doing business. Fantasies may lead to new love. Visualization may lead to a remodeled house or a new invention. Creative play takes our minds to places we have never been, pioneering new paths that the real world can follow. Like when Einstein came up with his theory of relativity after imagining himself riding on a streetcar traveling at the speed of light.”33

“When well chosen stories are conveyed, they provide significance and structure to the way a child envisions the world. Messaging emerging from stories strengthen values, provide information and present a secure framework for sorting out feelings.”39

In her essay ‘Elegy for My Mother’, M.G. Lord presents a fantastic reallife example of the role play and toys have in configuring adulthood: “My Barbie paraphernalia was a museum of my mother’s vocabulary. Arrayed together, the objects were a nonverbal vocabulary, the sort of language in which John Berger urged women to express themselves. Except for ‘Solo,’ which a friend had given me, the language was hers…. She didn’t tell me ‘Housework is thralldom,’ but she refused to buy Barbie cooking utensils. She didn’t say ‘Marriage is jail,’ but she refused 31 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 106 32 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 6 33 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 93 16

“Stories,” Dr. Brown explains, “are a way of putting disparate pieces of information into a unified context.”38

In addition to providing children with a medium to facilitate reflection and build on life experiences, storytelling and dramatization has also been shown to be an excellent way to introduce children to the purpose and process of writing, encourage and facilitate the “creative expression of ideas and feelings,” provide “opportunities to build social skills,” and help “children to work through ideas and experiences.”40 34 M.G. Lord. “Elegy For My Mother,” in The Barbie Chronicles, ed. Yona Zeldis McDonough, pg. 61-62 35 Sherrie A. Inness. “Barbie Gets A Bum Rap: Barbie’s Place in the World of Dolls,” in The Barbie Chronicles, ed. Yona Zeldis McDonough, Pg. 181 36 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 91 37 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 38 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 92 39 Sheryl Gilman. “Social Stories: Pathways to Inclusion.” English Quarterly Canada; 2009; 39, 2; CBCA Complete pg. 33 40 Cheryl Wright, et al. “Windows into Children’s Thinking: A Guide to Storytelling and 17


Serious Play for Serious Girls

Pioneering psychologist Lev Vygotsky “argued that play provides a medium in which children can easily remember, imagine, and recreate images and ideas from their previous experiences, even though these same mental operations might be too difficult if the same children were to simply try to think about or discuss them. Dramatization of the children’s stories mimics this function of play. In the dramatizations, children are required to conceptualize the ideas represented in the stories of their peers and translate those conceptualizations into action. A process that is abstract and difficult for young children to accomplish in isolation becomes possible within the context if playacting a story.” 41 The human brain makes sense of the world through play in the form of “simulations and testing”. “For humans, creating such simulations may be play’s most valuable benefit. In play we can imagine and experience situations we have never encountered before and learn from them. We can create possibilities that have never existed, but may in the future. We make new cognitive connections that find their way into our everyday lives.”42 “So how do we create these ‘simulations’? Through watching and engaging in sports, physical activities, books, storytelling, art, movies, and much more. By living through Rick and Ilsa’s doomed romance in Casablanca, we learn a little bit about love and how to live our lives with honor and a sense of irony when love is lost.”43 Play helps children learn evolve, adapt, and navigate their world. Studies on animal play have actually shown that “Animals that play a lot quickly learn how to navigate their world and adapt to it. In short,” animals that play more, “are smarter.”44 Play helps children create right-fit career choices. Play habits and interests when we are children are very indicative of the types of careers that we will be best at and fulfill us the most then we are adults. “The work done that we find most fulfilling is always a recreation and extension of youthful play. The engineers that JPL found to be so adept Dramatization.” Early Childhood Education Journal; 2008:35 41 Cheryl Wright, et al. “Windows into Children’s Thinking: A Guide to Storytelling and Dramatization.” Early Childhood Education Journal; 2008;35 42 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 35 43 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 35 44 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 33 18

The Case For Play

were the ones who had played with their hands in their youth, taking apart clocks and cameras, building forts and stereos. They performed well as adult engineers not because they had lots of practice working on watches, but because in a sense they were doing for work what they had always done for pure enjoyment. They were still playing.”45 “Media both shape and reflect cultural perceptions of who we are, what we’re valued for, what we want, what we need, what we believe about ourselves and others-and that we should consider ‘our place’ in society.”46 According to audience reception research by communication scholars Sut Jhally and Justin Lewis, “Television affects how viewers make sense of the world. It is not usually one episode or one series that influences the way we think; it is the aggregate of messages that enter our minds. These messages are part of our environment and… ubiquitous, are consumed as automatically and unconsciously as the air we breathe.””47 Research shows that captivating television shows shape, sway, and influence the way we perceive other people, what is or isn’t socially acceptable, and the way we perceive the world. For example, “In 1992, University of Massachusetts-Amherst researchers conducted a “major qualitative audience study” to evaluate how The Cosby Show affected social and political attitudes of fifty-two focus groups (twenty-three Black, twenty-six white, three Hispanic). Their findings remain highly relevant today. In-depth interviews revealed that “many viewers were so engaged with the situations and the characters on television that they naturally read beyond the scene or the program they were discussing and speculated about them as real events and characters… The implications of this are profound. We can no longer assume that the content of TV fiction does not matter simply because TV viewers understand that it is fiction.” Viewers’ identification with characters and situations in the sitcom seemed to directly impact their opinions about people of color, and about public policies impacting race and class status in America.”48

45 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 64 46 Jennifer L. Pozner. “Reality Bites Back; The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV.” Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010. P 21 47 Jennifer L. Pozner. “Reality Bites Back; The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV.” Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010. P.21 48 Jennifer L. Pozner. “Reality Bites Back; The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV.” Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010. P.22 19


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

Because children feel pressure “to conform to group standards” they are easily manipulated by media images and advertisements, even if they intellectually realize that the advertisements are trying to persuade them.49 “Consultant Nancy Shalek stated: Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their products, you’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that. If you tell them to buy something they are resistant. But if you tell them they’ll be a dork if they don’t, you’ve got their attention. You open up emotional vulnerabilities, and it’s easy to do with kids because they’re the most vulnerable.”50 Allowing advertisements to shift the way children think about themselves and their peers effects the way children see the world.

“toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions”

Roland Barthes

49 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.47 50 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.48 20

Serious Play can call for a serious mechanic. www.bikeworks.org 21


Serious Play for Serious Girls

The Case For Play

Bike Works’ Leadership Camp Bike Ride in Eastern Washington. www.bikeworks.org 22

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Serious Play for Serious Girls

Effort & Play Quality Not all play is created equal, and not all play is serious. Serious Play requires effort on the part of the child; the more effort a child puts into their play, the more benefits they gain from the experience. “Play, and the satisfaction gained from it, requires effort. If all babies ever have to do is bat at an object or press a button, they miss opportunities for learning how to explore and create.”51 Exerting effort, facing challenges, the ability to respond to failure by working harder, and delayed gratification are skills learned through play and childhood experiences. When entertainment’s degree of captivation and parental praise are out of proportion to the amount of effort a child exerts to receive their reward, praise, or captivation, the child fails to learn these vital life skills.52 Exerting effort through play teaches young children that effort creates entertainment, that pleasure and satisfaction require work and effort, and teaches children to delay gratification. Delaying gratification is how children learn to work towards goals. Research shows that “When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.”53 Forced performance doesn’t produce the same life-lessons as self-directed effort-based play. Screen media (aka television and video games) require less effort, they’re passive play rather than active and engaging play, and because of their passive low-effort nature they produce less developmental benefits regardless of how educational the content may be. “In addition to replacing creative play as a leisure time activity, screen media is less apt to generate creativity and imagination than radio and books- which require more of us.”54 51 Susan Linn.“The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 53 52 PO Bronson & Ashley Merryman. NurtureShock. New York: Twelve, 2009. P. 11-26; Susan Linn. The Case for Make Believe. P. 53 53 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 111 54 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 30 24

The Case For Play

“A child playing with a simple stuffed fantasy creature gets to exercise imagination by creating character- picking its age, gender, personality, and movements, and even its species. A creature wearing a dress eliminates choice of gender. A creature in a ballet skirt, combat boots, or a crown narrows choice of identity. A creature representing a specific media character- like Elmo- eliminates the opportunity to create personality. An Elmo enhanced with a computer chip that allows him to speak robs children of a chance to make up a voice and limits the situations they might imagine for that specific character and the responses they might invent.”55 Over-defined toys that limit children’s responses don’t help facilitate rich, dynamic, creative play. Research has shown that “when play is shaped by commercially driven and formulaic television programmes toys tend to be over-defined and play is impoverished.”56 Re-enacting the script from a television show, or a movie doesn’t produce the same play benefits as generating a plot, creating characters, and negotiating rules. As children grow older, they “are often taught out of this imaginative approach to play, at first by parents, who might impart pressure and guilt that they really should be playing with this great toy or by pervasive media marketing. Later, kids get toys that come straight out of hit movies or TV shows, toys that come with a preset collection of ideas about who the characters are and how children should play with the toys. This kind of script can rob the child of the ability to create his own story. Instead, he is mimicking the expressions and lines that he is expected to say. A chance for imaginative flights of fancy is lost.”57 Unfortunately, movies are now often “based on already existing toys such as those based on Bratz dolls and on Hasbro’s Transformers in 2007. Reenactment now features as a central form of play, more commercially lucrative than simply associating the toys with a film or its characters.” As re-enacting continues to become an increasingly common form of play we have to become increasingly concerned about the correlation between effort and play- reenacting simply does not produce anywhere near the same developmental benefits as genuinely creating and imagining through play. 58 55 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 37 56 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.35 57 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 104 58 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden. “This Little Kiddy Went to 25


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The Case For Play

“for younger kids, the developmental benefits come from getting to make the rules and change them at will, so that there’s enough variety for them to really engage.”59 “If we constrict children’s opportunities for creative play from birth, they won’t begin to know how to generate new ideas, challenge existing norms, or revel in their own creativity. That’s why perhaps the most troubling trend in a commercialized culture fraught with troubling trends is the media and marketing industry’s all-out effort to get babies and toddlers hooked on screens and electronic gizmos from the moment they’re born. What’s at risk is no less than the development of essential life skills- including the essential capacities to look to themselves for generating amusement, and to soothe themselves when they are stressed.”60 “A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says what children really need for healthy development is time for more oldfashioned play.”61 The insights children gain from play “weren’t the reason they played, but they arrived as the result of it. You never really know what’s going to happen when you play.”62

Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P. 27 59 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 111 60 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 41 61 Elizabeth Goodenough, et al. “Poetry, Puddles, Play: Partnerships and the Imagination.” English Quarterly Canada; 2009; 39, 2 62 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P 18 26

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Play & Neurology Play’s impact on our psychological, social, and intellectual development becomes a whole lot clearer when we look at play’s impact on our neurological development. Play doesn’t just shape the way we think and interact, it actually helps create the neurological pathways for brain functioning… In his book, “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul,” Dr. Stuart Brown explains that “play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself”63 “Neuroscientists, developmental biologists, psychologists, social scientists, and researchers from every point of the scientific compass now know that play is a profound biological process….It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable. In higher animals, it fosters empathy and makes possible complex social groups. For us (humans), play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.”64 There is actually a strong and direct link “between brain size and playfulness for mammals in general.” The more we play, the more our brain develops.65 “Play is key in social development, and it is also fundamental in brain formation. A newborn’s brain is a mass of trillions of neurons. A small percentage of them get assigned to controlling involuntary things like heartbeat, reflexes, and body temperature, but the rest are just waiting for something to do. One science writer describes them as being like “chips in a computer before the factory preloads the software.”66 The amount of play that children engage in “is correlated to the development of the brain’s frontal cortex, which is the important brain region responsible for much of what we call cognition: discriminating relevant from irrelevant information, monitoring and organizing our own thoughts and feelings and planning for the future.”67 63 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 40 64 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 4-5. 65 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 33 66 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 107 67 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P.34

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The Case For Play

Play is instrumental in developing and wiring “the parts of the brain that control movement,”68 “Play seems to be so important to our development and survival that the impulse to play has become a biological drive. Like our desires for food, sleep, or sex, the impulse to play is internally generated.” 69 Play expert and Harvard psychiatry professor, Susan Linn, explains in her book The Case for Make Believe that “babies don’t have to be taught to play- they are natural sensualists and explorers- rather we prevent them from playing.”70 “Play, which is more prevalent during the periods of most rapid brain development after birth (childhood), seems to continue the process of neural evolution, taking it even one step farther. Play also promotes the creation of new connections that didn’t exist before, new connections between neurons and between disparate brain centers.”71 “Many animals develop new nerve connections in the brain due to play only during the juvenile period. When these animals stop playing when they are adults, their brain stops growing as well. Humans on the other hand are very different from other animals. The human brain “can keep developing long after we leave adolescence and play promotes that growth. We are designed to be lifelong players, built to benefit from play at any age. The human animal is shaped by evolution to be the most flexible of all animals: as we play, we continue to change and adapt into old age.”72 “For example, studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis.”73 “Many studies have demonstrated that people who continue to play 68 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 108 69 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 42 70 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P 16 71 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 41 72 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 48 73 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 58 29


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

games, who continue to explore and learn throughout life, are not only much less prone to dementia and other neurological problems, but are also less likely to get heart disease and other afflictions that seem like they have nothing to do with the brain. The majority of the risk of Alzheimer’s is attributed to life style and environmental influences.”74

Play & Intellectual Development Play has a major impact on intellectual development. For example: Rich, dynamic, creative, “dramatic play provides the best backdrop for developing cognitive skills, including symbolic thinking and self-regulation and, specific literacy-related skills such as oral language.”79

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp-Bowling Green University, research center at Washington State University: “Think about how you feel walking out of a really good movie, bringing your mind back again to the everyday world but retaining a changed perspective. This sense of coming back to the world shows that the movie was indeed play.” 75

“Children communicate better with each other when they play. In fact, if you want to provide rich opportunity for the development of language skills, then encourage dramatic play- a place where you’ll really see children’s language grow and thrive.”80

When it comes to play’s impact on brain development, play expert Dr. Stevanne Auerbach finds that “The first five years in the life of the child are of the greatest consequence.”76

“Play is your child’s work. Through play children practice the basic skills needed in the classroom- and in life. Guided play in the right environment will help your child gain the tools she needs to sharpen her thinking, and heighten her sensitivity.” 81

When a baby is 2 months old, synapses start fusing in different parts of the brain on a pretty set schedule-physical movements around 2 months (up until then, motions are mostly limited to sucking and involuntary reflexes), visual signals at 3 months, memories at around 9 months, and so on. Once babies are old enough to recognize physical objects, they will immediately start experimenting with them, which is the main way synapses get connected to each other. 77

“The effects of play on a child’s ability to learn- provided the child has sufficient access to it at the right stage of development- can be long lasting. In a wellknown, long running study… those who played a lot in their early years ended up with improved reading levels and a greater likelihood of attending college. They even had higher IQ scores, averaging 105 compared to about 85.”82

“These early years are intensely formative: a period when children gain knowledge about themselves and their environment, develop basic motor skills, discover many of their abilities, and gain the self-image and security that lasts a lifetime.”78

“Of particular importance is understanding that play enriches both sides of the brain--right and left hemispheres.  Thus, the underlying principle of play, smart play, is that the child will gather essential experiences necessary for her fullest mental development.”83 “We’ve all heard about IQ(Intelligence Quotient). It is a classic predictor of your child’s mental ability.” Dr. Stevanne Auerbach has found that a child’s “‘Play Quotient’ is an equally vital factor which affects how well your young one will attain the best of his physical, creative, and intellectual potentials.”84

74 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 71 75 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 61 76 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.6 77 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 107 78 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.6 30

79 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 80 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 81 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.5 82 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 109 83 Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, “Smart Play Smart Toys;How to Raise a Child with a High PQ” San Francisco, 2004-06. P.5. 84 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.5 31


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

Recent graduates from the top engineering schools in the United States have been presenting an interesting problem in the field- while they “excel at grappling with theoretical, mathematics problems at the frontiers of engineering, but they didn’t do well with the practice difficulties of taking a complex project from theory to practice.” Managers at Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a well-respected aerospace research facility, have found that “Unlike their elders (older engineers), the younger engineers couldn’t spot the key flaw in one of the complex systems they were working on, toss them around, break it down, pick it apart, tease out it’s critical elements, and rearrange them in innovative ways that led to a solution”85 “JPL managers went back to look at their own retiring engineers and found… that in their youth, their older, problem-solving engineers had taken apart clocks to see how they worked, or made soapbox derby racers, or built hi-fi stereos, or fixed appliances. The young engineering school graduates who had also done these things, who had played with their hands, were adept at the kinds of problem solving that management sought. Those who hadn’t, generally were not.”86 Another engineering minded company, “a machine shop that specialized in precision racing and Formula One tires” discovered that engineers who played with their hands when they were growing up were better able to “see solutions” than those who didn’t play with their hands. Play is key to problem-solving success for engineers. 87 This becomes extremely useful to STEM fields such as Math and Science. Learning to problemsolve through play, and learn to learn from failures through play, helps children become better at scientific problem-solving as adults.

85 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P 9-10 86 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P 10-11 87 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P.10-11 32

An enthusiastic group of young women from the Amherst Youth Engaged in Service program volunteering for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo. www.habitatbuffalo.org 33


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Play & Emotional Development “Lifelong play is central to our continued well-being, adaption and social cohesiveness.”88 Dr. Stuart brown, a clinical researcher and founder of the National Institute for Play, believes that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives is the most important factor in being a fulfilled human being. “The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.”89 Play allows children to use their imagination, which is key to emotional resilience and creativity. When children fantasize and imagine the life of others and compare it to their own, they develop empathy, “understanding and the trust of others, as well as personal coping skills.”90 Through creative play, children learn to see the world through a creative lens. When children play, they are developing “the capacity for simultaneously recognizing a cushion for both what it is and what it could be.” This allows children to alter the world around them in order to “play out their dreams and hopes, fears and fantasies.” 91 When children are able to play, they start understanding how to take risks, experiment, think critically, and take action, instead of only reacting to things that happen to them. It allows children to differentiate themselves from their environment and learn how to make life meaningful. 92 Tying into effort and play, the amount that children put into play reflects upon their understanding of delaying gratification and how to prioritize their goals and actions. 93 They are learning how to “regulate their behaviors and act in a deliberate, intentional way.” 94 88 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 58 89 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 6 90 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 87 91 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P.18 92 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P 19 93 Elena Bodrova, et al. “Why Children Need Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today. 2005: 20,1 94 Elena Bodrova, et al. “Why Children Need Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today. 2005: 20,1 34

The Case For Play

Play teaches children to learn from failure- ‘these blocks fell over when we stacked them like this, so let’s try…’, organized sports teach children to learn from mistakes to improve their outcomes, and so on. “Not learning to learn from failures is problematic because… learning from failures is a necessary component to healthy lifelong decision making. If we can’t incorporate the lessons of the past into our future decisions, then we’re destined to endlessly repeat our mistakes.”95 When children play, they are creating simulations of life, which may be play’s most valuable benefit. Children imagine and experience situations they have never encountered before and are able to learn from them. They create possibilities for the future that they have not experienced yet. They make cognitive connections and learn lessons and skills without being directly at risk. 96 Through different forms of play and the ability to address and act out their emotions, children are able to express their feelings and learn to cope with them during difficult and confusing times. When this type of play is suppressed, children may grow up holding back their feelings and acting out in inappropriate ways. Through play, children can act out their feelings and learn to understand and experience “the difference between feeling and action.” They learn important lessons about self- control and what an appropriate outlet is for their feelings.97 A leading researcher in the field of affective neuroscience, Jaak Panksepp suggests, without sufficient play experiences, “optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other important functions may not mature properly.” 98 Researchers agree that it is important to allow children to play alone in a safe environment when they are younger, even if they get irritable, in order to develop the ability to amuse or soothe themselves for short periods of time. This facilitates children’s creativity and helps them to enjoy playing alone. 99 95 Jonah Lehrer. “How We Decide.” New York, 2009. P.52-4 96 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 34 97 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 73 98 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 100 99 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 217 35


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

It is important for parents to play with their children, but there are certain limitations that parents need to understand with regard to making their kids safe, successful, and happy. Parents need to foster “internally driven, self-directed play that will allow children to become secure and selfconfident on their own.” While this does involve some risk, which should be monitored and minimized, free play should be encouraged and control of the activities that children participate in should be limited. Allowing kids to play and learn from their experiences have tremendous benefits to their future health success and happiness. 100 The way parents play with their children and give positive responses to questions is essential to kids’ “emotional health, wellbeing and selfconfidence.” 101

Play & Social Development “A study of one elementary school found that the most liked kids tended to exhibit the most positive social behavior on the playground.”102 “Another study, this one focusing on low-income, at-risk kids, found that those who were put into a play-heavy preschool became much more socialized, with effects lasting even into their 20s, and they had lower probabilities of job suspensions or criminal problems later in life.”103 “play is key in social development.”104 In nature, “play teaches young animals to make sound judgments.”105 “Children’s everyday activities constitute important developmental opportunities in that they serve as a forum for the socialization of cultural knowledge and practices (Larson & Verma, 1999). Time spent playing, talking, and interacting with friends and family may be among the most important contexts of learning (Bandura, 1978; Mead, 1934; Piaget, 1932; Vygotsky, 1929).”106 “Kids at play can learn the difference between friendly teasing and meanspirited taunting as they explore the boundaries between those two, and learn how to make up when the boundary is crossed.”107 Modeling social aggression on tv actually distorts this natural process & changes the peer rules for what is acceptable friend behavior.

100 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 108 101 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P. 29 36

102 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 110 103 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 110 104 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 107 105 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 32 106 Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 107 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 32 37


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

Rough & Tumble Play Dr. Stuart Brown describes Rough and Tumble Play as an important opportunity allowing children the skills to decipher social cues and also the ability to practice self-regulation. Rough and Tumble Play gives children the experience necessary to understand social interactions and creates a situation where this type of play can be properly facilitated. Brown clarifies: “Lack of experience with Rough-and-Tumble play hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery, and has been linked to poor control of violent impulses later in life.”108 Joseph Flanders, an expert in child psychology also agrees: “An important step in prevention of chronic physical aggression is helping children at risk learn to regulate their own behavior through physical play, which is an important component of human socialization.”109 In nature, “Play lets animals learn about their environments and the rules of engagement with friend and foe. Playful interaction allows a penalty free rehearsal of the normal give-and-take necessary in social groups.”110 “when animals play-fight, they are practicing to fight or hunt for real later on. But it turns out that cats that are deprived of play-fighting can hunt just fine. What they can’t do- what they never learn to do- is to socialize successfully. Cats and other social animals such as rats will, if seriously missing out on play, have an inability to clearly delineate friend from foe, miscue on social signaling, and either act excessively aggressive or retreat and not engage in more normal social patterns. In the give-andtake of mock combat, the cats are learning what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence- the ability to perceive others’ emotional state, and to adopt an appropriate response. “111 “Juvenile rats deprived of play-fighting interactions with peers develop a variety of emotional and cognitive deficits, some associated with basic social competence.”112

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108 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 89 109 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 110 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 32 111 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 32 112 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25.

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Jaak Panksepp’s “research shows that play reduces the impulsivity normally seen in rats with damage to their brains’ frontal lobes- a type of damage thought to model human attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) because if affects executive functions such as selfcontrol.”113 Panksepp’s “research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that ‘abundant access to rough-and-tumble play’ reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontal lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity (and it also is good for those not necessarily prone to ADHD).”114 “Unlike non-human animals who play with peers from very early in life, young children primarily play with their parents. The frequency of father-child RTP peaks in the late preschool years, whereas the frequency of peer RTP peeks in early adolescence. Interestingly, the period in which father-child RTP is most common corresponds with a period marked by great improvements in the frontal lobe functioning, which is known to support the regulation of behavior and emotion. Thus, the preschool years may be an ideal period to stimulate the development of children’s self-regulatory functioning.”115

The Case For Play

Research has shown the significance of parental mediation in Rough and Tumble Play. Flanders explains: “RTP can indeed be associated with behavior problems, but only when fathers are unable to maintain an authoritative position in the play interactions. Most researchers and parents will acknowledge that play is important to develop a greater understanding of the potential gain and harm these activities may bring to a child’s development.”117 “Physically aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, and biting, are observable as early as 18 months of age, but typically begin to decline through the preschool years. This decline is likely due to the development of the self-regulatory abilities that serve to inhibit physical aggression and develop more socially appropriate alternatives.”118 Children who fail to develop self-regulatory abilities by kindergarten “are at risk for chronic psychosocial problems later in life including adult crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, unemployment, divorce, and mental illness.”119

“According to the model proposed by Peterson and Flanders, fatherchild RTP presents children with unique self-regulatory challenges. It is an intense, exciting, and rough activity that can stimulate children to the edge of their emotion-regulation abilities. Yet, the activity is only sustainable as long as both parties are having fun, which means that individuals must modulate their emotion and behavior according to the needs of a play partner if play is to continue. Paquette has argued that by setting limits and modeling effective self-control in RTP, fathers can contain and support this behavior modulation.”116 113 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 99 114 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 100 115 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 116 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 40

117 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 118 Joseph L. Flanders. et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 119 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25. 41


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The Case For Play

Serious Play in the Great Outdoors! These students from St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School are exploring the great outdoors on a week-long hiking and camping trip at Camp Kitchikewana, Little Beausoleil Island, Georgian Bay, Ontario. www.smls.on.ca 42

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TV, Play, & Screen Media When parents use screen media to entertain, placate, or keep children busy, children “miss out on the opportunity to practice delaying gratification, which is essential for any task that involves setting a goal and working towards it, from succeeding at work to saving for retirement.”120 Susan Linn asks in her book The Case for Make Believe: “What are the primary life lessons children absorb by regularly watching DVDs while eating in a restaurant? They learn to look at screens rather than to their environment for stimulation, to expect to be entertained rather than to entertain themselves. They learn that interacting with family during meals is so boring they need the inducement of screen entertainment to get through a meal. And they learn that eating is something to do while you’re doing something else.”121 Research shows that, “When screens dominate children’s livesregardless of content- they are a threat, not an enhancement, to creative play, and make believe.”122 3, 4, and 5 year olds lose 45 minutes of creative play for every hour of television they consume.123 “Current statistics indicate more hours are spent watching TV and playing computer games than attending school.”124 “By the time they get to first grade, American children will have ‘spent the equivalent of three school years in the tutelage of the family television set”125 While almost half of all parents believe that baby videos positively impact early child/infant development, television exposure has actually been shown to impede infant and early childhood development, delay language acquisition, impair attention control, dull cognitive development, and rouse aggressive behavior.126 120 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: The New Press, 2008. P. 56 121 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: The New Press, 2008. P. 56 122 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 30 123 Elizabeth A. Vandewater, et al. “Time Well Spent? Relating Television Use to Children’s Free-Time Activities.” Pediatrics 117, no 2 (2006). p.181-91. 124 Elizabeth Goodenough, et al. “Poetry, Puddles, Play: Partnerships and the Imagination.” English Quarterly Canada; 2009; 39, 2 125 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden. “This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P. 8 126 Dimitri A Christakis, et al. “Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns: A Population-Based Study.” Archives of

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The Case For Play

TV programming actually distracts babies, thereby limiting their social and active engagement in play activities that are fundamental for neurological and cognitive development.127 “Today, many children do not have enough play opportunities at home because of TV, videos, and the computer. They interact with toys that are not conducive to building imagination and interesting dramatic play themes.”128 “Not only have they lost the opportunity to play and develop at their own pace, their psyches have been damaged and their view of the world distorted. They are trained rather than educated and constantly tested to make sure they have absorbed the ‘correct’ information.”129 “Numerous studies have shown that television watching plays an important role in the socialization process. Television programs with limited time to devote to character development often resort to stereotypes. Continued exposures to stereotypic information have been shown to influence memory and stereotypic conceptions of gender roles and occupational roles.”130 “High frequency of violent television watching has also been associated with higher aggression…Even brief exposure to violent television causes significant increases in aggression; over time, television watching increases children’s aggressiveness as young adults ”.131 “A well-documented finding, regardless of empirical method or culture studied, is that the media violence exposure increases subsequent physical aggression across development.” The cause and effect link between watching violence on TV and an increase in physical aggression is actually scientifically stronger than the proven connection between calcium intake and bone mass.132 Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Chicago: Jun 2009. Vol. 163, Iss. 6; p. 554. 127 Dimitri A Christakis, et al. “Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns: A Population-Based Study.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Chicago: Jun 2009. Vol. 163, Iss. 6; p. 554. 128 Elena Bodrova, et al. “Why Children Need Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today. 2005: 20,1 129 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden. “This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P. 5 130 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 131 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 132 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www.

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Watching violence on television has also been empirically shown to be linked to other negative outcomes, such as “desensitization to real violence, aggressive cognitions and behavior, and problematic parental and peer relationships”.133 In a study conducted by University at Buffalo researcher, Dr. Jamie Ostrov, extended television viewing for girls was directly correlated to increased verbal and relational aggression.134

The Case For Play

“Although the findings are unique for girls and boys, in general they suggest that parents should be highly attentive to the amount, type, and appropriateness of media to which young children are exposed.”139 Dr. Ostrov’s findings confirm those of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “too much media consumption, regardless of content, in general can have negative consequence for peer relationships.”140

Dr. Ostrov’s research “is the first empirical evidence that supports the hypothesis that television exposure is associated with the transmission of both physical and relational aggression in gender specific ways during early childhood.” 135

Based on the finding of his research, Dr. Ostrov and his team “support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that children under three watch no television and that it be limited to one hour a day for young children over three (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001).”141

In Dr. Ostrov’s study, “Children who were observed to be higher on relational aggression at school watched more concurrent television relative to lower relationally aggressive peers.” 136

“Children are especially vulnerable to sexual and violent content because they are drawn to the dramatic images, even if those images are scary or confusing.”142

“Children are perhaps being exposed to relational aggression models in the media during early childhood, even in educational programming.” 137

The modeling and messaging in movies and on television impacts far more than just children’s physical and relational aggression. “In the last 2 decades, we have witnessed a surge of media research using increasingly sophisticated methods for accessing exposure and health outcomes. In 2008, a report by the National Cancer Institute concluded there was enough evidence to support a casual relationship between smoking in movies and youth smoking onset.”143

“When examining the content of children’s media exposure, rather than just the amount, the results show content-based effects. For boys, exposure to violent media was associated with all subtypes of future observed aggression. For girls, violent media exposure was only associated with future verbal aggression. Education media exposure was only associated with future observed relational aggression, but only for girls.” 138 psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 133 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 134 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 135 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 136 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 137 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 138 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf.

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“Another interesting finding was that children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds had larger media effects. This fits with other research that shows larger effects for movie exposure in children who would otherwise be considered at low risk for smoking, including those from nonsmoking families, low risk for sensation seeking, and for children who participate in team sports.” 144 139 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 140 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 141 J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.” Social Development, 15, 612-627. www. psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf. 142 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.41 143 James D. Sargent. “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics; 2009;9:289-90 144 James D. Sargent. “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics; 2009;9:289-90 47


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“Given what is known about media exposure and specific health outcomes, it is not surprising to find media exposure to be associated with poorer global measures of health.” In a “large national sample of US adolescents” there were “modest associations between parent reports of higher television use by their adolescents and their reports of overweight, poorer oral health, and lower self-esteem and competence among their adolescents.”145 Commercialism and Democracy expert, Sharon Beder, explains in her book “This Little Kiddy Went to market” that “Increasingly, media messages and images are normalizing and glamorizing the use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Tobacco manufacturers spend $6 billion per year, and alcohol manufacturers $2 billion per year, to entice youngsters into ‘just saying yes.’ Popular movies are often showing the lead character or likeable characters using and enjoying tobacco and alcohol products.”146 Adolescents spending more than 45 minutes per day playing video games has been linked to “less favorable perceptions of their own health status, health-related quality of life, and psychological distress. Notably, over 25% of boys, but few girls, had such high levels of video game use, so the adverse effects were most exclusively confined to boys.”147 In additional to smoking, aggression, and psychological distress, childhood “Obesity is part of the causal pathway between media exposure and poorer health.”148

145 James D. Sargent. “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics; 2009;9:289-90 146 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.31 147 James D. Sargent. “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics 2009;9:289-90 148 James D. Sargent. “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics 2009;9:289-90 48

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How Marketing Shapes Play Advertising often manipulates children and adolescents by preying on “their insecurities, seeking to define normality for them and shaping the identity they are beginning to form: marketers have closely studied the adolescent process of experiences that are part of these important explorations of self’.”149 Television advertisers often “hijack real emotions and attach them to trivial products thereby trivializing those emotions and encouraging children to form emotional attachments with products rather than people.”150 “The emphasis of advertising on creating anxieties and insecurities has resulted in a generation that is insecure, lonely, frustrated and depressed. Bombarded with images of how they should look and what they should own, children struggle to keep up, suffering from stress; anxiety; increasingly lower satisfaction with themselves and their lives.”151 “The preoccupation with individual consumption, which is encouraged by marketing is damaging to individual well-being and detrimental to society. The more time people spend thinking about consuming material goods, working to attain them, ‘the less time is devoted to activities that satisfy non-material needs-family and friends, creative and artistic endeavors, spiritual practices, etc.’”152

In their book “So Sexy So Soon” Dr. Levin and Dr. Kilbourne explain that “Little girls have always indulged in princess fantasies and many parents don’t see the inherent harm in letting their little girls indulge them today. But playing princess was never the way it is with Disney Princesses. The overwhelming message the Princesses convey is look pretty, aka sexy, so they can hook their prince. Everything else is secondary. And we have heard of more and more little girls who dream of being princesses when they grow up.”153 149 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.48 150 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.48 151 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.48 152 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.50 153 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, 50

The Case For Play

“Parents know that to “raise strong girls” they can try to get them to play more sports, talk to them about standing up to bullies, and tell them how wonderful girls are. But has all the talk about the girls’ psychology changed the culture? Watch the Discovery Channel, open an American Girl catalog, or take a walk through Limited Too, and you’ll see stereotypes of girls with very limited choices about who they can be alongside continuous pleas for them to shop, primp, chat, and do the things girls are ‘supposed to do.’ In fact, be aware that every time the phrase ‘girl power’ is used, it means the power to make choices while shopping!”154 In Packaging Girlhood Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown explain that they “have been studying girls for more than twenty years now and believe there needs to be a different message other than a warped version of ‘girl power.’ That message is now corrupt and used too frequently to sell your daughter an image of being powerful; this means tons of money spent every day to help girls look powerful and feel powerful by conforming to a stereotyped image of an independent, ‘hott,’ boyobsessed, shopping teenager. Too little money is spent on developing the activities and programs and guidance that girls need to become truly powerful.”155 Lamb and Brown’s book sets out to show us “that the beginning of a genuine movement to give girls more power and more choice got co-opted and turned into a marketing scheme that reinforced age-old stereotypes.”156 “‘People might think that toys are more androgynous these days, but go into any toy shop and you will find separate aisles, and even separate floors, for girls and boys,’ says Becky Francis, professor of education at Roehampton University. ‘The packaging is geared towards either boys or girls by colour, wording and the images portrayed on them. This creates the impression that certain toys are just for boys and others just for girls, and so some toys are completely out of bounds.’”157 New York, 2009. P.48 154 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.2 155 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.1 156 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.1 157 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” 51


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“Toy companies are aware of gendered consumer preferences, and develop and market their toys to these trends, so closing down broader options and perpetuating the gendered toy market.”158 “As you walk down the aisles, you can tell just from the colors on the packaging which aisles are for boys and which are for girls. The overwhelmingly pink and pastel aisles are full of toys for girls. Almost all of these toys focus play on appearance, fashion, and sexiness. They include fashion dolls with crotch-length skirts, make up sets, and life-size heads with wigs on which to practice hair styles.”159

Students at St. Clement’s School in Toronto, Ontario showing off their School Spirit at their 2011 York House Day celebration. www.scs.on.ca Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 158 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 159 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.40 52

Bike Riding as Serious Play: This father-daughter bike lesson was caught on camera by Marcellina Tylee, and submitted by Bike Works in Seattle, WA. www.bikeworks.org 53


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The Case For Play

How Toys Shape Play Creative play allows children to grow, adapt, evolve, and transform. It also helps children understand themselves and the world around them. Toys help spark and inspire creative play. A child’s interaction with toys can shape their world view, determine their skill sets, and influence their personal opinions. Researchers have also discovered that toys help simulate brain activity and increase neural development.160 Not all play produces the same neural or developmental return on investment. Toys can help increase neural development, but not all toys are created equal. “The more a toy contributes to the interactive process, the less effort a child makes to think creatively, to come up with solutions or act spontaneously- and the less benefit children derive from that toy.”161

“A good toy is 90% child and 10% toy.”162 Dr. Auerbach has also found that it isn’t the toy so much as how the toy is played with that determines the education value of play. “Any toy can be educational if the child is shown how to use it in an enriching way.” Reenacting a story line doesn’t produce the same neural activity, require the same creativity, or produce the same play value as generating an original plot and deciding on roles and characters. “Research suggests that the more time children have to nurture and develop their own interpretations, the more they are likely to move beyond the script they’ve viewed.”163

“A Good Toy is 90% Child 10% Toy” Joan Almon

Most toy marketing emphasizes “children’s ‘need’ for toys rather than their need for play.” 164 This is problematic since research show it isn’t the toys themselves that produce brain development- it’s how children play with the toys that produces a positive impact. This is even more problematic since the manner in which marketers market toys actually impacts how parents think about the connection between toys and play, which can directly impact the types of play experiences parents are likely to facilitate and encourage... 160 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.6 161 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 37 162 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 37 163 Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe.” New York: United States by The New Press, 2008. P. 30 164 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 54

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“Enriched environments” (aka bright colorful play spaces and nurseries) have been scientifically linked with positive brain development. When parents talk about enriching a child’s playroom or bedroom, they usually think about adding toys and bright stimulating colors. However, researchers studying animal play have found that having bright, colorful nurseries (or an “enriched environment”) aren’t actually the key to stimulating brain development. The key is actually actively engaging with the environment through creative play. In the 1960’s Marian Diamond, a researcher at UC Berkeley, conducted a study on animal play which showed that the secret to brain growth, for the rats participating in the study, “was that they played with an everchanging variety of rat ‘toys’ and socialized with other rats.”165 “Diamond’s experiments are… among the most well-established research findings showing that play is crucial to healthy brain development.”166 According to Dr. Diamond, “The combination of toys and friends was established early on as vital to qualifying the environments as ‘enriched”167

The Case For Play

“Play, art, and writing activities provide children with endless possibilities for working on pressing problems and concerns and figuring out how to solve them. Not only do these activities help children work out feelings, they are also one of the most effective ways to protect children from developing problem-solving deficit disorder... Providing open-ended (versus highly structured) play materials- such as blocks, baby dolls, generic dress-up clothes for male and female roles, miniature people, a doctor’s kit and dollhouse, markers and paper-can support children’s efforts to understand their relationships and their environment.”171 A commonly expressed concern among researchers is that “play is becoming much less creative because toys offer less open-ended play opportunities. Whereas toys were once props around which children could use their imaginations and devise any number of play scenarios and play these out, the scenarios, characters and the frameworks for play in modern toys are already spelt out in the movie and television scripts they derive from. This tends to close off other options and provide less scope for the use of imagination. Moreover, if the play is tightly scripted, there will be less room for spontaneous experimentation.”172

“Play was the true key for the rat’s brain development.” The rats “tussled and chewed, wrestled with each other, explored and interacted with the toys; they investigated and invited other rats to play. Those were active things they did. The rats were not passively soaking up their interesting surroundings.”168

One of the many ways that toys help facilitate creative play is by helping incorporate and inspire a wide array of play experiences. Play that is too narrowly focused limits children’s creative exploration of ideas, concepts, and social roles.

“Merely changing the surroundings offering varied challenges was not enough to get dramatic brain development, Diamond found.”169

“products that channel children into narrowly focused content and activities threaten to consume every aspect of their lives. For young girls, this usually means focusing on buying fashion items, looking pretty, and acting sexy. From newfangled Barbies and sexy Bratz dolls to ‘old-fashioned’ princess fairy tales”, toys that teach girls to value a narrow definition of play, a narrow idealized image (princess, celebrity, brat…) or specific type of behavior narrows their creative exploration of the world through play.173

“For human babies, the lesson should be not so much that babies should be provided with bright, colorful, interesting nurseries (although this can’t hurt). The lesson should be that it is crucial to provide babies and young children with the chance to play and socialize- toys and tots, play and parental interaction- to help them reach their full potential.170”

165 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 39 166 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 40 167 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 39 168 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 39 169 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 40 170 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 39 56

171 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.102 172 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 173 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.33 57


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The Case For Play

“Children today, who have seen advertisements for toys, tend to prefer to play with the toy than with a friend and they tend to prefer to play with a child they don’t like if the child has a coveted toy than with a child they like.”174 This is particularly concerning when we recall Dr. Diamond’s animal play research which showed that playing with toys and peers together is what actually creates the increases in brain development, not just playing with toys or having an environment full of stimulating colors and toys.

In their book So Sexy So Soon, Dr. Levin and Dr. Kilbourne include a list of helpful ways you can use art and play to help children meet their needs. Here are a few of their suggestions:

Sharon Beder explains that “Co-operation should be one of the important social learning areas of children’s game play, with chances for rules to be renegotiated, re-interpreted or improved.”175

“Established structures and routines that are conducive to encouraging creative play.” 179

“According to Philippe Aries, games and amusements once ‘formed one of the principal means employed by a society to draw its collective bonds close, to feel united’. The contrast with modern times is evident. Whereas historically play was a socializing activity, the focus of contemporary toys and games is on materialism and individualism.” “The design of many contemporary toys suggest that playmates are somewhat superfluous.” 176 “The consumerist message in some form is seldom absent from today’s toys, games and children’s entertainment. Toys have taken a highly commodified form which has lent itself to product and brand promotion as well as the promotion of consumerism in general. In today’s marketing-driven global playground merchandise substitutes for open space and exploration.”177

“Provide toys and play materials that can be used in many ways rather than highly structured toys (toys that come with ‘scripts,’ like TV or movie-themed action figures or characters) that control children’s play.”178

“Choose toys and play materials that allow for a broad range of play activities instead of narrowly scripting them…play dough, blocks, dollhouses, doctors’ kits, and crayons or markers and paper are wonderfully open-ended, allowing kids to create role-play in ways that are not scripted and/or that will demonstrate to an observant parent what script a child is following.”180 Dr. Auerbach, also known as Dr. Toy, recommends that when creative and unstructured “playtime is ending…it is important to give the child enough advance notice so she can have time to bring the activity to a satisfying close. If we respect our children’s playtime, the child is almost always more cooperative when they must change gears to eat, nap, or go elsewhere.”181

Toys that do most of the playing for us throw off the natural effort and reward cycle that’s a necessary part of developmentally beneficial entertainment. When children receive high entertainment reward while passively watching television or playing a video game, they’ll have less interest in excising their creative muscles to generate their own entertainment later. This prevents children from learning patience, being creative, delaying pleasure, and working toward goals- all essential skills necessary to succeed in school and in the work force. These are also skills necessary to being a happy and satisfied adult. 174 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 175 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 176 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 177 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 58

178 Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden.” This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009. P.34 179 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.102 180 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.105 181 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.8 59


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Serious Play on the playground. Submitted by Playworks Metro Boston www.playworks.org 60

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Serious Play for Serious Girls

Play & Gender “Isabelle Cherney, a professor of psychology at Creighton University, found that nearly half of boys aged five to thirteen, when ushered alone into a room and told they could play with anything, chose ‘girls’ toys as frequently as ‘boys’- provided they believed nobody would find out. Particularly, their fathers: boys as young as four said their daddies would think it was ‘bad’ if they played with ‘girls’ toys, even something as innocuous as miniature dishes. Boys were also more likely to sort playthings based on how they perceived gender roles (such as ‘Dad uses tools, so hammers are for boys’), where as girls figured that if they themselves enjoyed a toy- any toy- it was ipso facto, for girls”182 When children were asked to identify a toy as a girls toy or a boys toy, “toys viewed as more appropriate for girls were rated as attractive, creative, nurturing, and manipulable while masculine toys were identified as more competitive, aggressive, constructive, conducive to handling, encouraging sociability, and reality based.”183 “Play with feminine stereotyped toys encourages girls to learn rules, to imitate behavior, and to use adults as sources of help. In contrast, masculine stereotyped toys often provide feedback for correct answers and encourage boys to explore their environments independently.”184 “It was back in the 1970s that feminist educational researchers first studied the implications of the tendency for girls to play with dolls, and for boys to play with cars. They found that the way girls played developed their communication skills and emotional literacy, while boys’ toys encouraged them to grow up with better technical knowledge.”185 “Socialization theories help us see that girls’ understanding of appropriate femininity is not ‘natural’ or innate but is acquired through developmental processes whereby girls draw information from adults and peers, real and fictional, around them.186

Serious Unstructured Play on a KaBOOM Playground www.kaboom.org 62

182 Peggy Orenstein. “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” New York: Harper Collins, 2011. P. 21 183 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney et al. “The Effects of Stereotyped Toys and Gender on Play Assessment in Children Aged 18-47 Months.” Educational Psychology, Vol. 23, No.1 , 2003 http://www.andrews.edu/~rbailey/Chapter%20one/9040385.pdf P. 97 184 Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 185 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 186 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls” Washington, DC: American 63


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“Young children spend many hours playing with toys, and these activities certainly contribute to their developmental progression. Toy play is also an integral part of the process of children’s gender development. This is so much the case that children’s preferences for and their knowledge about the gendered nature of toys have often been used as a measure of their gender development.”187 “Gender differences found in the play of young children include differences in exploratory behavior, type of pretend play exhibited, and the complexity of play.”188 “children’s play with toys and their toy choices have also been shown to have long term consequences for later social and cognitive development. For example, play with feminine toys seems to elicit nurturing, proximity, and role play whereas play with masculine toys tend to foster higher mobility, activity, and manipulative play. In addition, gender stereotyped toys contribute to the formation of gender schemata which have been shown to contribute to stereotyped activities, roles, and to influence recall.189 “One of the methods of socialization in early childhood is through play with various types of toys. A consistent finding in the developmental literature is that children” typically (meaning outside of scenarios such as Dr. Cherney’s, where the child was confident no one would know which gender toy they played with) “tend to prefer toys that are stereotyped as appropriate for their own sex rather than toys that are identified with the other sex.”190 Psychological Association, 2007. P. 20 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/ apa_report.pdf 187 Judith E. Owen Blakemore and Renee E. Centers. “Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys.” Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/ documents/ToyGender.pdf P.13 188 Judith E. Owen Blakemore and Renee E. Centers. “Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys.” Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/ documents/ToyGender.pdf P.13 189 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney et al. “The Effects of Stereotyped Toys and Gender on Play Assessment in Children Aged 18-47 Months.” Educational Psychology, Vol. 23, No.1 , 2003 http://www.andrews.edu/~rbailey/Chapter%20one/9040385.pdf P. 96 190 Isabelle D. Cherney.”Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 64

The Case For Play

“Rather than playing with cross-gender-typed toys, girls most often choose to play with feminine or neutral toys, whereas boys play primarily with masculine toys. This selection of toys may limit children’s experience and inhibit their ability to develop certain skills or characteristics that could be enhanced by engagement with cross-gendertyped toys.”191 “People might think that toys are more androgynous these days, but go into any toy shop and you will find separate aisles, and even separate floors, for girls and boys,” says Becky Francis, professor of education at Roehampton University. “The packaging is geared towards either boys or girls by colour, wording and the images portrayed on them. This creates the impression that certain toys are just for boys and others just for girls, and so some toys are completely out of bounds.”192 Francis “found that while parental choices for boys were characterised by toys that involved action, construction and machinery, there was a tendency to steer girls towards dolls and perceived “feminine” interests, such as hairdressing.”193 “The very clear message seems to be that boys should be making things, using their hands and solving problems, and girls should be caring and nurturing,” says Fracis. “It is likely that many of the boys in the study sleep with a teddy, but this was not noted by parents as a favourite toy.”194 The parental preferences revealed in Francis’s study come as no surprise to Diane Daniels, who runs a nursery for three- and four-yearolds in Sheerness, Kent. “Even very young children come to us with preconceived stereotyped ideas about what they should be playing with, and certainly we know of dads who would not dream of their sons dressing up because they think this is something girls do,” Daniels says. “They want them to play with cars and other masculine toys. “Girls are also likely to have experiences that emphasize the importance of 191 Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 192 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 193 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 194 Dorothy Lepkowska. “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/dec/16/play 65


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attractiveness and appearance. This was found to be especially the case for strongly feminine toys, and in many ways it was the defining feature of this category. There has been particular concern about the impact of fashion dolls such as Barbie on girls’ views of themselves. Clearly, these toys come with accessories and clothing that emphasize appearance and grooming, and girls do focus on the dolls’ physical attractiveness as what they like about them (Markee, Pedersen, Murray, & Stacey, 1994). It is certainly arguable that this is a problematic aspect of strongly feminine toys.”195 Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, finds that “Girls are learning at the youngest ages that their value comes from how they look, and the definition of attractive is very narrowly defined as being sexy or sassy (for the younger girls)”.196 “Sexuality is imposed upon them inappropriately, and they are encouraged to define their bodies -- not by how their bodies feel to themselves, but by how they look to others. This creates vulnerabilities for girls to the pitfalls we worry about -- distorted body image, eating disorders, depression and unhealthy sexual behavior.”197 “According to the American Psychological Association, the girlie-girl culture’s emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness can increase a girl’s vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: depression, eating disorders, distorted body image, risky sexual behavior. On one study of eighth grade girls, for instance, self-objectification- judging your body by how you think it looks to others-accounted for half of the differential in girls’ reports of depression and more than two-thirds of the variance in their self-esteem.”198 “According to Stephen Hinshaw, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of “The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls From Today’s Pressures,” a kindergartner doesn’t understand that her pirate outfit is ‘hot’ — she just knows it’s attention-getting. But that doesn’t mean the look is harmless. In fact the disconnect is part of the problem: the risk is that it becomes permanent, and she never learns to connect sexy attitude to erotic feelings. Sexuality

195 Judith E. Owen Blakemore and Renee E. Centers. “Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys.” Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005 http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/ documents/ToyGender.pdf P.13 196 Katia Hetter. “Avoiding sexy costumes for kids.” Oct 28, 2011. CNN http://www.cnn. com/2011/10/28/living/sexy-costumes-kids/index.html accessed Nov 9th, 2011 197 Katia Hetter. “Avoiding sexy costumes for kids.” Oct 28, 2011. CNN http://www.cnn. com/2011/10/28/living/sexy-costumes-kids/index.html accessed Nov 9th, 2011 198 Peggy Orenstein. “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” New York: Harper Collins, 2011. P. 6 66

The Case For Play

is reduced to a performance, something to do rather than feel.”199 “If parents are better informed, though, and learn how to talk with their daughters-to listen more closely to their views and to express more clearly their own thoughts and feelings-they can compete with the consumerism, the market, and the media.”200 “In the end, it’s the market and it’s the media. Some savvy parents try to counteract the draw of these two forces on their girls but find that they, too, are pulled in by the pink and pretty stuff for the young girl as well as the glamorous “hot” and fun-looking stuff for the middle schoolers. These things are pretty and they are cute even when we know we’re being sold a narrow image of how a girl should dress, think, act, and be. But parents must learn to resist pop culture, too. You can resist without saying no, forbidding, and turning off the TV. We want parents to be confident critics of culture so that they can raise daughters who can resist what they are being sold.”201 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown suggest in Packaging Girlhood that parents talk to their daughters about the messaging they’re encountering… “We will not tell you to turn your TVs off or throw away her Polly Pocket dolls or forbid her to see certain movies or listen to certain rap songs. We cannot shut off the world. The images and stereotypes are everywhere and need to be addressed. Most important, you’re the one who needs to address them, to bring them to your daughter’s awareness and help her develop a critical sense of the world around her.”202 “Consciously work against the narrow stereotypes that boys and girls see. Help boys learn a broad range of alternatives to tough and violent behavior-including being caring and affectionate. Help girls work on alternatives to a focus on appearance and sexiness, such as being physically active and independent and engaging in play that goes beyond and emphasis on appearance.”203 199 Peggy Orenstein. “Sexy Costumes for Little Girls Aren’t Cute.” Oct 31, 2011. New York Times. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/sexy-costumes-for-little-girlsarent-cute/ accessed Nov 9, 2011. 200 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.3 201 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.3 202 Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.2 203 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.106 67


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The Case For Play

Students at the Santa Catalina School exploring their artistic talents at the beach www.santacatalina.org

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Play, Psychological Trauma, & Our Ability to Adapt “The capacity to play is a survival skill.”204 Psychologist had Harvard Professor, Susan Linn, whose passion lies in exploring the link between creativity and mental health, finds that “Pretend play combines two wonderous and uniquely human characteristics- the capacity for fantasy and the capacity for, and need to, make meaning of our experiences…. By making meaning, I mean the drive to reflect on and wrestle with information and events so that they make sense to us, enrich us, and help us gain a sense of mastery over our life experience.”205 “When children are given the time and opportunity, they turn spontaneously to pretend play to make sense of the world, to cope with adversity, to try out and rehearse new roles. They also develop the capacity to turn to pretend play as a tool for healing, for self-knowledge, and for growth.” “Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.”206 Animal studies on play have shown that “Play just lights everything up” in the brains of animals at play.207 Bouts of engrossing, engaging, lively play “particularly affect the brain’s level of certain ‘intermediate early genes’… which foster neural excitability and survival.”208 Psychologist and animal play researcher Stephen Siviy has discovered that “by strengthening connections between brain areas that might be weakly connected previously,” play may actually enhance and improve knowledge retention.209 204 Susan Linn, “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.” New York: The New Press, 2008. P. 11 205 Susan Linn, “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.” New York: The New Press, 2008. P. 11-12 206 Stuart Brown, M.D., “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009.P. 128 207 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 102 208 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 102 209 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 102 70

The Case For Play

Dr. Stuart Brown is one of the foremost experts on play, and has conducted research both how an absence of play negatively effects children, and the adults they become. “On one end of the spectrum,” Dr. Brown explains, “I studied murderers in Texas prisons and found that the absence of play in their childhoods was as important as any other single factor in predicting their crimes. On the other end, I also documented abused kids at risk for antisocial behavior whose predilection for violence was diminished through play.”210 Dr. Stuart Brown had the opportunity to observe animal play in Alaska with an expert in animal play behavior, Bob Fagen. Two young grizzly bears we observed engaging in a wrestling match with each other and seemed to be filled with joy. When Dr. Brown asked Bob why bears play, he simply stated that it was fun for them, and for pleasure. Dr. Brown pressed for a deeper explanation, when Bob reluctantly answered that, “In a world continuously presenting unique challenges and ambiguity, play prepares these bears for an evolving planet.”211 “After carefully documenting the play behavior of Alaskan grizzlies over more than fifteen years, the Fagens analyzed the results and were able to differentiate play from all other behaviors (the observational criteria and statistical analysis are not easy to summarize but they are quite specific and constitute statistically significant data). They found that the bears that played the most were the ones who survived the best. This is true despite the fact that playing takes away time, attention and energy from activities like eating, which seem at first glance to contribute more to the bears’ survival.”212 When children use their imaginations during play, they are developing the ability to self talk and use internal narratives to understand and overcome situations that they are faced with in life. “Though this may seem to be a primarily childish trait, close examination of adult internal narratives (our stream of consciousness) reveals something similar. Our adult imaginations are also continually active, predicting the future and examining the consequences of our behavior before it takes place. When we day dream, ‘these thoughts leave an imprint on our brains.’ We are 210 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P 26 211 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P.29 212 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 31 71


The Case For Play

Serious Play for Serious Girls

constructing a working profile for our future. This can be beneficial for our ability to face certain situations. ‘Psychoanalyst Ethel Person writes that, through therapy, one client discovered that much of his effectiveness in business came from his repeated imaginings of possible interactions that he might have on a particular issue. By the time he actually had the conversation, he was usually pretty well prepared for any contingency.’”213 According to Dr. Bowen White, founder of the Department of Preventive & Stress Medicine for Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City and the Department of Wellness and Health Promotion, “Parents and educators, corporate leaders, and others need to become convinced by the evidence that long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment-and yes, performance- are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance.” 214

Climbing new heights is Serious Play. Submitted by Amy Jussel at Shaping Youth www.shapingyouth.org 213 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 36 214 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 110 72

Play & Education “Most primary school teachers would probably agree that they don’t expect kindergarteners to enter first grade with a complete mastery of spelling and addition. After all, it is in the early elementary grades when children learn these academic competencies. However, teachers of entering school-agers do hope that the children who come into their classrooms can concentrate, pay attention, and be considerate of others. These areas are developed not by using flashcards or computer games, but through interacting with peers during play”215 Unfortunately, “Play is being squeezed out of early childhood education in the US. A recent report from the Alliance for Childhood summed up the situation for kindergarten: ‘Too few Americans are aware of the radical changes in kindergarten practice in the last ten to twenty years. Children now spend far more time being instructed and tested in literacy and math than they do learning through play and exploration, exercising their bodies, and using their imaginations. Many kindergartens use highly prescriptive curricula linked to standardized tests. An increasing number of teachers must follow scripts from which they may not deviate. Many children struggle to live up to academic standards that are developmentally inappropriate … At the same time that we have increased academic pressure in children’s lives through inappropriate standards, we have managed to undermine their primary tool for dealing with stress – freely chosen, child-directed, intrinsically motivated play.’ Is this picture too alarmist? Far from it. And the same tendencies have been transforming pre-kindergarten preschools as well. Across the board, play is being displaced by a single-minded focus on teaching academic skills through direct instruction. This emphasis on more didactic, academic, and content-based approaches to preschool education comes at the expense of more child-centered, play-oriented, and constructivist approaches, which are dismissed as obsolete or simply crowded out.”216 “…the quest for accountability embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act has led to increased reliance on high stakes standardized tests, pressuring teachers to train successful test takers at ever younger ages. In such a context, play can seem a low priority at best or a time-wasting distraction at worst.”217 215 Elena Bodrova, et al. “Why Children Need Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today. 2005: 20,1 216 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 217 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood 73


Serious Play for Serious Girls

“According to ‘Crisis in the kindergarten’, a report recently released by the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, all that testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbingly, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that is vital to their success: play.”218 “Regardless of the cause…accelerating kindergarten is unnecessary: any early advantage fades by fourth grade. ‘It makes a parent proud to see a child learn to read at age four, but in terms of what’s really best for the kid, it makes no difference.’ For at-risk kids, pushing too soon may backfire. The longitudinal High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study followed 68 such children, who were divided between instruction-and play-based classrooms. While everyone’s I.Q. scores initially rose, by age 15, the former group’s academic achievement plummeted. They were more likely to exhibit emotional problems and spent more time in special education.”219 “These policies are often well-intentioned and might appear practical and realistic. Unfortunately, they fly in the face of much that we know about young children’s learning and development and about the practices that most effectively promote them. Using preschool to enhance school readiness is an excellent idea. But young children learn differently from older children or adults, and their ways of making sense of the world rely heavily on play, exploration, and imagination. Young children can certainly benefit from some direct instruction and from being taught various sorts of specific content, if that constitutes one element in a balanced preschool curriculum. But a one-sided, or even exclusive, focus on top-down training in specific academic skills is developmentally inappropriate and counterproductive. And given what we know about the importance of play for young children’s intellectual, socioemotional, and physical development, suppressing it can have genuinely harmful effects.”220 Play shouldn’t end once children begin school- “All of the patterns that induce states of play are present and remain important for growth, flexibility, and learning. Unfortunately, we often forget this or choose Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 218 Peggy Orenstein. “Kindergarten Cram.” New York Times Magazine: April 29th 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03wwln-lede-t.html 219 Peggy Orenstein. “Kindergarten Cram. “ New York Times Magazine: April 29th 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03wwln-lede-t.html 220 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 74

The Case For Play

not to focus on play’s necessity under intense pressure to succeed. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and ‘nonessential’ subjects like arts and music are cut. In many school districts, even recess and physical education have been severely reduced or even eliminated.”221 The neuroscience of play shows that this skills and drills, rote memory approach to education is problematic, “especially considering that students today will face work that requires much more initiative and creativity than the rote work this educational approach was designed to prepare them for. In a sense, they are being prepared for twentiethcentury work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart- they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.”222 “children need a certain amount of self-directed free play – including physical play – and there is increasing concern that an exclusive regime of instruction, drill, and testing leaves many preschoolers overstressed, underexercised, and more likely to become anxious and overweight.”223 “One recent study found that 8-and 9- year-olds who got at least one 15-minute break during the school day behaved better when they were back in the classroom. Another found that kids who play a lot tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety as adolescents, and there’s some evidence that may help kids with ADHD lessen the severity of their symptoms.”224 “As Vygotsky and others have convincingly emphasized, young children’s play is not simply frivolous; it is an intensely absorbing activity that serves as a powerful matrix for learning and development. A substantial body of research has confirmed the value of children’s social 221 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 99 222 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 99 223 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 224 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 111 75


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Serious Play for Serious Girls

pretend play, in particular, for promoting both cognitive development and the development of forms of social competence including cooperation, self-regulation, and interpersonal understanding.”225

“When you look at early readers, you see that there are many paths to reading. Some children learn sounds first, others memorize words, and then there are infinite combinations in between.” 230

A survey of 245 teachers in New York and Los Angeles found that “kindergarteners spent two to three hours a day being instructed and tested in reading and math. They spent less than 30 minutes playing. ‘Play at age 5 is of great importance not just to the intellectual but emotional, psychological social and spiritual development,’ says Edward Miller, the reports co-author. Play- especially the let’s pretend dramatic sort- is how kids develop higher-level thinking, hone their language and social skills, cultivate empathy. It also reduces stress, and that’s a word that should not have to be used in the same sentence as ‘kindergartener’ in the first place’.”226

“We also know that preschoolers’ cognitive or intellectual development is not sufficient by itself. Certain forms of social competence are also crucial elements of school readiness, both in themselves and because they help promote children’s cognitive achievements as well. Key dimensions include the self-regulation of behavior, attention, and emotion (also discussed under the rubric of executive function); the capacity and willingness for cooperation; and social understanding. Various forms of play have a critical role in promoting these socioemotional skills during children’s early years.”231

“The perspective commonly discussed in education is that children need knowledge of the world and that this knowledge can be acquired from pictures or listening to stories. Those things are helpful, but they don’t come close to the magnitude of the highly personal, emotional experiences that children need. Children need opportunities to interact with others while learning new concepts-whether it be learning a new word/concept like dog or something more complex. Words like love or fairness are words that are learned in an emotional context. So, when we read about these things, reading becomes meaningful.”227 “Interaction is also important when learning the mechanic parts of reading-the ability to perceive shapes on a page and the ability to associate those shapes with sounds and words. You’ve got to decipher that d-o -g stands for dog and then you have to associate the word dog with what you know about a dog. And, if you don’t have much experience with a dog, then it’s really an empty word.”228 “Experience is what makes the whole reading process meaningful... what best prepares preschool children and kindergarteners for reading, is play. I’m referring to well-developed dramatic play, where children take on rich roles and create fantasy worlds that are of their own design.”229 225 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 226 Peggy Orenstein. “Kindergarten Cram.” New York Times Magazine: April 29th 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03wwln-lede-t.html 227 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 228 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 229 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 76

Serious play in pink at St. Clement’s School in Toronto. www.scs.on.ca

230 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 231 Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 77


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The Case for Recess “The link between adequate recess time and later higher performance is one finding that appears to support these benefits. This may be because of the total involvement that play often requires. The state of play is one in which attention is focused exclusively on the pleasurable play activity, and memory fixation has been shown to be closely related to heightened attention and emotional rewards. In addition, play involves multiple centers of perception and cognition across the whole brain.”232 PE4life’s research has shown overwhelming evidence that, “by allowing kids to choose their activity (it does have to be hard aerobic exercise) the kids are having fun, improving their bodies and also their brain function” simultaneously.233 “because play is a kind of physical learning, it turns out that kids who do a lot of it are better at what we think of as traditional learning, too.”234 Darell Hammond is the founder and CEO of the recess-touting playsaving playground-building not-for-profit known as KaBOOM. He’s also one of the biggest players in the snowballing movement to save play. Darell has recently been tackling the play-related issue of boredom: “Adults are cramming as much as they can into their children’s days under the misguided notion that boredom is a bad thing. Then, in the precious hours of free time they have, kids turn to TV, computers, and video games to keep themselves entertained. The result? A generation of kids who are adept at following rules -- whether in a classroom, on the soccer field, or on their PlayStation -- but who are at a complete loss when it comes to innovating, designing, tinkering, or doing anything that requires drawing from their own imaginations.”235 “According to the Institute for Social Research, between 1981 and 1997 kids lost 12 hours of weekly free time while time spent in structured sports doubled. Time spent on homework increased by 50 percent. And young people’s daily screen time now hovers around 7.5 hours per day.”236 232 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 102 233 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 113 234 Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” NewYork: Rodale, 2011. P. 109 235 Darell Hammond. “In Defense of Boredom” Huffington Post, 12/31/10. http://www. huffingtonpost.com/darell-hammond/in-defense-of-boredom-why_b_795173.html 236 Darell Hammond. “In Defense of Boredom” Huffington Post, 12/31/10. http://www.

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Susan Linn’s research and expert insights on play illuminates an interesting issue relating to boredom- if we keep children from creative play, children won’t know how to play creatively, or independently. And creative independent play is absolutely essential for our psychological wellbeing, our ability to innovate and problem-solve, and ability to be creative, our ability to play well with others.237 Darell Hammond and Susan Linn are touching on a shocking issue- we are seeing a generation of children who don’t know how to play, how to entertain themselves when they are bored, who are externally rather than internally motivated, who are ineffective at self-regulating their own behavior, and who are ill prepared for the challenges they’ll be expected to face in school, at work, and in their real everyday adult lives... “boredom serves its purpose if children have both the time and space to play – and preferably, some other kids to play with.”238 Multiple studies show that recess improves classroom behavior, and multiple studies show that play in early elementary school years has a longer-lasting education and competence impact than increased math or other concrete skill development exercises.239 Recess provides a checks and balance system to ensure children have opportunities to play- and to engage in developmentally beneficial and creativity-inspiring socially engaging play, even if they aren’t provided with opportunities to play creatively at home. Dr. Brown includes an extreme example of what happens when this checks and balance system goes awry, in his book Play. In an extreme but highly relevant example, Dr. Brown discusses his research as the lead psychiatrist working to uncover what had triggered the 2007 school shooting at Virginia Tech. Upon first inspection, it became obvious that the source of the shooter’s psychosis was tied to extreme and abusing parental over-control during his childhood. What became more apparent during the investigation, however, was that the shooter, Charles Whitman (aka Charlie), had never been allowed to play. “In Charlie’s home, the constant mantle of control and fear didn’t allow the emergence of normal patterns of play. Charlie huffingtonpost.com/darell-hammond/in-defense-of-boredom-why_b_795173.html 237 Susan Linn, “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.” New York: The New Press, 2008. 238 Darell Hammond. “In Defense of Boredom” Huffington Post, 12/31/10. http://www. huffingtonpost.com/darell-hammond/in-defense-of-boredom-why_b_795173.html 239 Kerala Taylor, “Play Haters! Nashua school district cuts back on recess, calls it a “significant disruption””, BaBOOM!, Sept 12, 2011. http://kaboom.org/blog/play_haters_ nashua_school_district_cuts_back_recess_calls_it_significant_disruption 79


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Serious Play for Serious Girls

wasn’t allowed to play outside with other kids. Instead he was forced to stay inside and do something ‘useful,’ like practice the piano.” Charlie’s preschool teachers reported that even at a very young age, Charlie was unable to play freely. He was able to model other children’s behaviors, but wasn’t able to move beyond “outward conformity.” Charlie became entirely externally motivated, “driven not by his own desires or needs” but by others’ expectations of him. The school shooting was Charlie’s desperate “autonomous action” to gain inner relief.240

“Boredom serves its purpose if children have both the time & space to play - and preferably, some other kids to play with” Darrell Hammond

While Charlie is an extreme example, he is a reminder that recess should provide opportunities for all children to exercise their vital need to play. Removing recess certainly wouldn’t cause otherwise healthy children to plan a school shooting, however, research shows that an inability to play is a common cause of violent homicidal behavior. Because play is essential to healthy social development, recess becomes a powerful touch point for overcoming the social, emotional, and intellectual traumas caused outside of school. Additionally, recess can improve classroom behavior, help students with ADHD learn to moderate their behavior and control impulses, improve attention, and increase physical activitywhich has been shown to improve learning and decrease obesity (which is currently occurring among elementary school children in the US at alarming rates). Unfortunately, Superintendant Mark Conrad in Nashua, N.H. has presented a recent example of play being removed from schools because it is perceived as a frivolous distraction. “Conrad and Nashua elementary school principals have decided to eliminate a second 15-minute recess period for 2nd – 5th grade students. Conrad asserts that the second recess period creates a “significant disruption” in the school day, according to the Nashua Telegraph, and sometimes results in a “significant loss of learning.” Students will instead use those 15 minutes for “enrichment in math and reading.”241 Mark Conrad’s suspicion that recess disrupts ‘useful’ learning does not take into account the empirical evidence that play actually facilitates pro-social classroom behavior and improves learning outcomes. Sadly, this lack of concern or interest in proven playrelated outcomes is a common trend in academic policy.

240 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 95-7 241 Kerala Taylor, “Play Haters! Nashua school district cuts back on recess, calls it a “significant disruption””, BaBOOM!, Sept 12, 2011. http://kaboom.org/blog/play_haters_ nashua_school_district_cuts_back_recess_calls_it_significant_disruption 80

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Sports & Outdoor Play In a recent outdoor study, “More than half of all outdoor participants took part in team sports from ages 13 to 17, while less than one-third of non-outdoor participants took part in team sports during the same period.”242 Research has shown there’s an interesting connection between creative play, outdoor play, and playing with others. “Children who spent more time in unscripted or unstructured activities engaged in more creative play, compared to children who listed scripted activities as their favorites and who spent more time playing alone at home or in sedentary activities such as watching television or playing video/computer games.”243 “Athletics provide feedback about one’s own physical talents, and what it feels like to participate, win, lose, and be fair. And because sporting contests are games, because the outcome doesn’t (or shouldn’t) materially affects our well-being, they give us perspective on the other struggles we have in life.”244 “Although as a society we often focus on sports as an essential, group character-building activity of childhood, there are many other arenas in which teens can build a constructive peer group. Speech and debate, drama, math club, art, band, and orchestra also provide a forum for play and exploration among groups of like-minded kids.”245 “Ample research shows that physical activity leads to experiences of positive mood and feelings of confidence, is associated with achieving and maintaining physical health, and improves cognitive performance. If the practices of sexualization and the resultant self-objectification in which many girls engage serve to limit their physical activities, then girls and women are likely to suffer a wide range of consequences for their overall health and well-being. For example, Dowling (2000) suggested that girls and women who are physically active and confident are more able to defend themselves from physical attack and abuse. 246 242 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 243 Dr. Isabelle Cherney and Dr. Michael W. Barry. “Child’s Play: It’s Serious Business.” The Council on Contemporary Families, August 2, 2009. http://www. contemporaryfamilies.org/children-parenting/play.html 244 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 117 245 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 117 246 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. 82

The Case For Play

“Another school-based strategy is to provide access to athletics and other extracurricular activities that encourage girls to focus on body competence instead of body appearance. Although girls’ and women’s participation in sports and physical activity can be dismissed, ignored, sexualized, or co-opted, participation in physical activity may be one of girls’ best means of resisting objectification and sexualization. Because athletic activities inherently require a focus on body competence, agency, and action, they provide girls with the opportunity to develop a selfconcept founded on what they can do rather than on how they look.”247 “Children’s and adolescents’ participation in sports and physical activities is related to increased self-esteem, and this association may be especially strong among children with economic disadvantages or those who have mental, emotional, or physical disabilities . Sports participation is also linked to increased levels of body self-esteem”248 That these increases in self-esteem relate to healthier sexual development is suggested by evidence that sports participation is inversely related to engaging in risky sexual behavior.249 “Schools that provide athletic and other extracurricular opportunities that help girls develop a more empowering view of their bodies may also protect girls from the influence of sexualization. Parents and other adults, through co-viewing and discussion, can help young minds think critically about what they see.”250 “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. P. 37 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/apa_ report.pdf 247 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.  P. 37 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/ apa_report.pdf 248 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.  P. 37 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/ apa_report.pdf 249 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.  P. 37 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/ apa_report.pdf 250 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.  P. 37 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/ apa_report.pdf 83


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“Other studies have demonstrated better mental health later in life among those who have participated in sports (not necessarily varsity level) at college age.”251 “For all age groups, schoolwork and a preference for screen media, such as TV, computers and video games, work together to keep them indoors.”252 Boys reported engaging in more sports activities and spending more time playing sports than girls did. These activities included outdoor sports such as basketball, soccer, and football, which may promote visualspatial skills, aggression, being a team player, and overall athletic ability. “Boys listed physical activities that were considered significantly more masculine than the sports that girls listed, particularly in the case of the older children. This finding is not surprising because older children tend to participate in more organized sports activities that are more physically strenuous and that require them to negotiate the rules of the game; these activities are considered “masculine” in American society. These activities often require social competence, cooperation, and leadership potential, and they may provide children with a source of positive selfesteem and promote spatial imagery.”253 “in the last twenty years, the average range of independent mobility for North American 12-year-olds has shriveled from one mile to 550 yards.”254 “The Outdoor Foundation data from the last four years shows that participation in outdoor activities typically declines with age, which illustrates why it’s critical to reach children to ensure a healthy outdoor population. According to a 2004 study by The Outdoor Foundation, Exploring the Active Lifestyle, 90 percent of active adult participants in outdoor recreation were introduced to outdoor activities between ages 5 and 18.”255 251 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 117 252 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 253 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 254 Elizabeth Goodenough, et al. “Poetry, Puddles, Play: Partnerships and the Imagination.” English Quarterly Canada; 2009; 39, 2 255 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, 84

The Case For Play

Participating in outdoor activities can act as a ‘gateway’ to pique children and adults’ interest in being more active outdoors.256 “34 percent of youth participants take part in an outdoor activity less than 24 times a year or twice a month. The infrequency of their participation in outdoor activities suggests youth are not satisfying the minimum activity levels recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”257 “Most youth are introduced to outdoor activities by parents, friends, family and relatives. Three-quarters of children ages 6 to 12 are influenced in their participation in outdoor activities by their parents. As they age, of course, their parent’s role in their participation diminishes, and friends gain an increasingly influential role”.258 “For youth ages 6 to 12, ‘fun’ is by far the most common motivation for participating in outdoor activities, far more than youth ages 13 to 17 and young adults ages 18 to 24.”259 “While ‘fun’ is cited as the number one motivator for kids ages 13 to 17, as well, relaxation is the top motivator for young adults. Overall, young adults more often site motivations related to self-fulfillment, such as challenges, new experiences and escape from routines, and youth more often cite simple pleasures and accessibility, such as fun and proximity to home.”260

DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 256 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 257 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 258 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 259 Outdoor Foundation.“Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 260 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 85


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“Using an excuse familiar to many adults, a lack of time is the number one reason youth of all ages don’t participate in outdoor activities more often.”261 “Among youth ages 6 to 17, a lack of time is followed closely by a lack of interest and the impact of schoolwork.”262 According to the Outdoor Foundation’s research and reports on youth outdoor engagement and physical education: “As budget cuts ravage school districts across the country and programs are being dropped across the board, the importance of providing physical education (PE) in school can’t be understated.”263 “Among adults who are current outdoor participants, 83 percent say they had PE in school between the ages of 6 and 12. That compares with just 70 percent of non-outdoor participants. 81 percent of outdoor participants also say they had PE in school from 13 to 17 years of age, while only 69 percent of non outdoor participants recall PE in school during the same period of time.”264

Art, Music & Play “More than 65 distinct relationships between the arts and academic and social outcomes are documented. They include such associations as: visual arts instruction and reading readiness; dramatic enactment and conflict resolution skills; traditional dance and nonverbal reasoning; and learning piano and mathematics proficiency.”265 Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.266 Dr. Brown reports that “the impulse to create art is a result of the play impulse. Art and culture have long been seen as a sort of by-product of human biology, something that just happens as we use our big, complex brains. But the newer thinking is that art and culture are something that the brain actively creates because it benefits us, something that arises out of the primitive and childlike drive to play.”267 “the children of affluent, aspiring parents generally get exposed to the arts whether or not public schools provide them. Low-income children, often, do not. ‘Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences,’ says Eric Cooper, president and founder of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education.”268 “If they’re worried about their test scores and want a way to get them higher, they need to give kids more arts, not less,” says Tom Horne, Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction. “There’s lots of evidence that kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests.”269

261 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 262 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 263 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 264 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC. Outdoor Foundation, 2010 http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ ResearchParticipation2010.pdf 86

265 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.10 266 Fran Smith. “Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best.” http://www. edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development. January 2009. 267 Stuart Brown, M.D. “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. P. 61 268 Fran Smith. “Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best.” http://www. edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development. January 2009. 269 Fran Smith. “Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best.” http://www. edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development. January 2009. 87


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“art leads to a high state of motivation that produces the sustained attention necessary to improve performance and the training of attention that leads to improvement in other domains of cognition.”270 “Specific links exist between high levels of music training and the ability to manipulate information in both working and long-term memory; these links extend beyond the domain of music training.”271 “A growing body of studies, including those in the research compendium Critical Links, presents compelling evidence connecting student learning in the arts to a wide spectrum of academic and social benefits. These studies document the habits of mind, social competencies and personal dispositions inherent to arts learning. Additionally, research has shown that what students learn in the arts may help them to master other subjects, such as reading, math or social studies.”272 A recent study found that the development of literacy skills among prekindergarteners was fostered when the children were allowed to act out their favorite stories. Dramatic play also helped motivate them to learn.273 Students consistently involved in orchestra or band during their middle and high school years performed better in math at grade 12. The results were even more pronounced when comparing students from low-income families. Those who were involved in orchestra or band were more than twice as likely to perform at the highest levels in math as their peers who were not involved in music.274 “Certain arts activities promote growth in positive social skills, including self-confidence, self-control, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance. Research evidence demonstrates these benefits apply to all students, not just the gifted and talented.”275 270 Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D., Susan Magsamen, Guy McKhann, M.D., and Janet Eilber. “Learning, Arts, and the Brain; Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 Johns Hopkins University Summit.” New York/ Washington DC. 2009. P. 13 271 Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D., Susan Magsamen, Guy McKhann, M.D., and Janet Eilber. “Learning, Arts, and the Brain; Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 Johns Hopkins University Summit.” New York/ Washington DC. 2009. P. 13 272 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.8 273 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.12 274 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.13 275 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” 88

The Case For Play

Students at risk of not successfully completing their high school educations cite their participation in the arts as reasons for staying in school. Factors related to the arts that positively affected the motivation of these students included a supportive environment that promotes constructive acceptance of criticism and one where it is safe to take risks.276 During ages 3-4 “Arts experiences during this period contribute to the child’s ability to learn causality. New problems pose questions and encourage children to seek their own answers and act on choices. Children develop language skills by reciting poems and finger plays. Number skills are developed through music (for example, counting rhythm and beats when playing a musical instrument). Dance helps to build motor control, body relationships, and directionality. Spatial acuity is developed through drawing, sculpting, and other visual arts. Social skills are encouraged by group activities such as learning dance steps or singing songs.”277 “Numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between drama involvement and academic achievement. In addition to having higher standardized test scores than their peers who do not experience the arts, student who participate in drama often experience improved reading comprehension, maintain better attendance records, and stay generally more engaged in school than their non-arts counterparts. Schools with arts-integrated programs, even in low-income areas, report high academic achievement.”278 In addition to building social and communication skills overall, involvement in drama courses and performance has been shown to improve students’ self-esteem as well as their confidence in their academic abilities.279

National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.14 276 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.14 277 Vermont Arts Council, “Learning and Growing with the Arts.” http://www. vermontartscouncil.org/portals/0/documents/chapt_1.pdf 278 American Alliance for Theater and Education. “The Effects of Theatre Education.” http://www.aate.com/content.asp?admin=Y&contentid=223 279 American Alliance for Theater and Education. “The Effects of Theatre Education.” http://www.aate.com/content.asp?admin=Y&contentid=223

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Students at the Buffalo Academey of the Sacred Heart celebrating the joys of dance. www.sacredheartacademy.org 90

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Volunteers & Contributors MaryJayne Zemer, Editor Gloria Zemer, Sponsor Edward Tierney, Design Alison Bentlage, Intern Taylor Andress, Intern Mike Lee, Volunteer Dr. Wendy Russell, Definition of Play Submission Dr. Jamie Ostrov, Definition of Play Submission Dr. Stevanne Auerback, Definition of Play Submission Dr. Isabelle Cherney, Definition of Play Submission Photo Credits: Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth, www.shapingyouth.org Bike Works, www.bikeworks.org Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, www.sacredheartacademy.org Habitat for Humanity Buffalo. www.habitatbuffalo.org KaBOOM, http://kaboom.org/ mini yogis® yoga for kids, www.miniyogis.com Playworks Metro Boston, www.playworks.org/make-recess-count/play/ playworks-boston Playworks National, www.playworks.org Santa Catalina School, www.santacatalina.org St. Clement’s School, www.scs.on.ca St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn School. http://www.smls.on.ca References: Ageliki Nicolopoulou. “The Alarming Disappearance of Play from Early Childhood Education.” Human Development 2010;53:1–4 American Alliance for Theater and Education. “The Effects of Theatre Education.” http://www.aate.com/content.asp?admin=Y&contentid=223 American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.” Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. www.ojp. usdoj.gov/newsroom/events/pdfs/apa_report.pdf Cheryl Wright, et al. “Windows into Children’s Thinking: A Guide to Storytelling and Dramatization.” Early Childhood Education Journal; 2008;35

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Darell Hammond. “In Defense of Boredom” Huffington Post, 12/31/10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/darell-hammond/in-defense-of-boredomwhy_b_795173.html Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play.” New York: Rodale, 2011. P. 107 Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. “So Sexy So Soon.” Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. P.41 Dimitri A Christakis, et al. “Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns: A PopulationBased Study.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Chicago: Jun 2009. Vol. 163, Iss. 6; p. 554. Dorothy Lepkowska, “Playing Fair? Dolls are for Girls and Lego is for Boys.” Guardian, December 16th 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/ education/2008/dec/16/play Elena Bodrova, et al. “Why Children Need Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today. 2005: 20,1 Elizabeth Goodenough, et al. “Poetry, Puddles, Play: Partnerships and the Imagination.” English Quartlerly Canada; 2009; 39, 2 Elizabeth A. Vandewater, et al. “Time Well Spent? Relating Television Use to Children’s Free-Time Activities.” Pediatrics 117, no 2 (2006). p.181-91. Fran Smith. “Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who’s Doing It Best.” http://www.edutopia.org/arts-music-curriculum-child-development. January 2009. International Play Association. “Global Consultants on Children’s Right to Play: UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31.” September 22, 2009. http://article31.ipaworld.org/IPA%20World,%20IPA,%20 International%20Play%20Association,%20Article%2031,%20UN%20 Article%2031,%20Rights%20of%20the%20Child/united-nations/

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IPA World. “UN Convention- Rights of the Child- Article 31” September 22, 2009. http://article31.ipaworld.org/IPA%20World,%20IPA,%20 International%20Play%20Association,%20Article%2031,%20UN%20 Article%2031,%20Rights%20of%20the%20Child/united-nations/ Dr. Isabelle Cherney and Dr. Michael W. Barry. “Child’s Play: It’s Serious Business.” The Council on Contemporary Families, August 2, 2009. http://www.contemporaryfamilies.org/children-parenting/play.html Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney. “Gender-linked Differences in the Toys, Television Shows, Computer Games, and Outdoor Activities of 5-to 1-year-old Children.” Sex Roles (2006) 54: 717-726 Dr. Isabelle D. Cherney et al. “The Effects of Stereotyped Toys and Gender on Play Assessment in Children Aged 18-47 Months.” Educational Psychology, Vol. 23, No.1 , 2003. P. 96. http://www.andrews. edu/~rbailey/Chapter%20one/9040385.pdf

The Case For Play

Kerala Taylor, “Play Haters! Nashua school district cuts back on recess, calls it a “significant disruption””, BaBOOM!, Sept 12, 2011. http:// kaboom.org/blog/play_haters_nashua_school_district_cuts_back_recess_ calls_it_significant_disruption Mariale Hardiman, Ed.D., Susan Magsamen, Guy McKhann, M.D., and Janet Eilber. “Learning, Arts, and the Brain; Findings and Challenges for Educators and Researchers from the 2009 Johns Hopkins University Summit” New York/ Washington DC. 2009. M.G. Lord. “Elegy For My Mother,” in The Barbie Chronicles, ed. Yona Zeldis McDonough, pg. 61-62 Outdoor Foundation. “Outdoor Recreation: Participation Report.” Washington, DC: Outdoor Foundation, 2010. http://www. outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/ResearchParticipation2010.pdf

James D. Sargent, “Getting a Handle on the Media: Where Should We Focus Our Efforts?”Academic Pediatrics; 2009;9:289-90

Peggy Orenstein. “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” New York: Harper Collins, 2011. P. 17

J. M. Ostrov et.al. (2006). “Media Exposure, Aggression and Prosocial Behavior During Early Childhood: A Longitudinal Study.”Social Development, 15, 612-627. www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/dgentile/ pdfs/Ostrov_Gentile_Crick_in_press.pdf.

Peggy Orenstein. “Kindergarten Cram.” New York Times Magazine: April 29th 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03wwlnlede-t.html

Jennifer L. Pozner. “Reality Bites Back; The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV.” Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010. P.21 Jonah Lehrer. “How We Decide.” New York, 2009. P.52-4 Joseph L. Flanders, et al. “Rough-and-Tumble play and the development of Physical Aggression and Emotion Regulation: A Five-Year Follow-Up Study.” Journal of Family Violence: 2010, 25.

Peggy Orenstein. “Sexy Costumes for Little Girls Aren’t Cute.” Oct 31, 2011. New York Times. http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/ sexy-costumes-for-little-girls-arent-cute/ accessed Nov 9, 2011. PO Bronson & Ashley Merryman. NurtureShock. New York: Twelve, 2009. P. 11-26; Susan Linn. The Case for make Believe. P. 53 Sandra S. Ruppert. “Critical Evidence; How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement.” National Assemblies of State Arts Agencies, 2006. P.14

Judith E. Owen Blakemore and Renee E. Centers “Characteristics of Boys’ and Girls’ Toys” Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 9/10, November 2005. P.13. http://web.mit.edu/2.00b/www/documents/ToyGender.pdf

Sharon Beder with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden. “This Little Kiddy Went to Market; The Corporate Capture of Childhood.” New York: Pluto Press, 2009 P. 5

Katia Hetter. “Avoiding sexy costumes for kids”. Oct 28, 2011. CNN http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/28/living/sexy-costumes-kids/index.html accessed Nov 9th, 2011

Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown. “Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketer’s Schemes.” New York;St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. P.48

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Sherrie A. Inness. “Barbie Gets A Bum Rap: Barbie’s Place in the World of Dolls,” in The Barbie Chronicles, ed. Yona Zeldis McDonough, Pg. 181 Sheryl Gilman. “Social Stories: Pathways to Inclusion.” English Quarterly Canada; 2009; 39, 2; CBCA Complete pg. 33 Stanley Greenspan, et al. “Learning to Read: The Role of Emotions and Play.” Scholastic Early Childhood Today:2001:16, 2 Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. “Smart Play Smart Toys; How to Raise a Child with a High Play Quotient.” San Francisco 2004-06 P.8

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The Strong National Museum of Play. “About Play,” http://www. thestrong.org/about-play Stuart Brown, M.D., “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” New York: Avery, 2009. Susan Linn. “The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World.” New York: The New P., 2008. Vermont Arts Council, “Learning and Growing with the Arts.” http:// www.vermontartscouncil.org/portals/0/documents/chapt_1.pdf

Yoga as Serious Play! mini yogis® yoga for kids shows us the fun side of yoga as a form of creative, expressive, fitness play. In this pic- you’re seeing a playful twist on Lion Pose. www.miniyogis.com 96

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Serious Play For Serious Girls

Serious Play for Serious Girls Our goal is to radically reduce Threats to Girlhood through our research, our awareness efforts, and our impact on industry. We’re working to advance the wellbeing of girls and the lifelong possibilities for women by impacting the modeling and messaging our children encounter and the quality of their play experiences. We believe that play is serious because it helps develop girls’ sense of self and cognitive abilities; it teaches creative and constructive problem solving, self expression, and emotional intelligence; contributes to character and skill development; and impacts the roles that girls think of as natural. Because the modeling and messaging conveyed by girls’ toys, products, and brands impacts girls’ childhood development and life-long wellness, we believe that it matters what we let girls’ brands say, convey, and sell.

Serious Play for Serious Girls

BlackDog Strategy and Brand financially underwrites our research endeavors as part of their commitment to improving the ethical standards of the branding industry and their continuing dedication to social responsibility. Our website is a research forum that allows us to share our ongoing discoveries, to help us learn about your experiences, and allow you to participate in our research endeavors. We look forward to hearing your stories and thank you for taking the time to consider how your contribution can help advance the well being of girls and the possibilities for women.

You are welcome to make a link to any of the web pages that Serious Play for Serious Girls has published on the Internet including this document. There is no need to request permission. Every effort has been made to collect and identify accurate, complete, verifiable, relevant, and timely information. It is our intent to correctly cite information and outside sources collected and request others do the same when using information published by Serious Play for Serious Girls. Images and content design are property of BlackDog Strategy & Brand or used under license and are subject to licensing agreements, terms, and copyright restrictions. Quotations and references may contain trademarked or copyrighted data which is the property of the respective authors, publishers or institutions. Any omissions or inaccuracies are an unintended oversight and will be revised upon notification. Please send updates or revisions to info@seriousplayforseriousgirls.com We appreciate that the presented data and information is compelling and has the potential to sway decisions that impact girls, as such we worked tirelessly to ensure the accuracy of the data presented. Serious Play for Serious Girls cannot guarantee that the sourced research, data, and facts represented and cited are accurate in their positional accuracy or attribute content. Serious Play for Serious Girls assumes no liability for any damages caused by errors or omissions in the data or for misuse, misrepresentation, or misinterpretation of the gathered content. Conclusions drawn from, or actions undertaken on the basis of such data and information are the sole responsibility of the user.

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The Case for Play  

The Case for Play is a full-color research-based factbook explaining why Play matters, why it’s Serious, and how Play affects the lifelong w...

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