There has been a spate of pop and academic media about recent research about the importance of play. You can follow some of the highlights in the TYO Radar on the left.
Perhaps one of the most extensive recently is a 72-page report just published by the Alliance for Childhood. It provides a readable, practical view of the virtues of play and the research that supports it. You can read the report here.
While of course there are other issues at play here in Nablus and the West Bank, having visited several pre-schools in Nablus last week, it is clear that there is a lack of free play time in many programs here. Even many of the 4-year-old classrooms were dominated by benches with attached writing desks, with minimal open space for playing with blocks and reading in a group, much less dancing or running.
TYO’s programs take an entirely non-formal education approach, engaging children in activities like sports and arts that are designed to stimulate their mind in different ways than traditional curriculum. More importantly, these activities have a psychosocial application, offering a platform and tools for self-expression. Largely as a result of this non-academic focus, we struggle with parents who are concerned about their kids missing out on valuable study time. Our attendance is much lower during school exam weeks. And our participants are 4-8 years old!
Fortunately, the impact of our programs on our participants is visible, and we hope that these results, combined with efforts to educate parents about the value of play and other non-academic activities for their children’s mental well-being, and indeed neurological development, will win us many converts before long!