Leave Those Kids Alone

Amazingly interesting observation by Brian D. Cohen in Huffington Posts on January 31, 2012 

When we get too directive or overbearing about play and the arts, we can take more away from kids than we give them. Sometimes we have to leave our kids alone to play, and not obsess, belabor, hover or cajole like tiger mothers of the imagination.

What is the role of play in education? A recent study of 300 children from working-class families found: “The ones that emerged as most creative …used their play as work,” says Stanford professor Shirley Brice Heath. “They were very difficult to disengage from play. To a person, they disliked, avoided, subverted education if it was not related to what they saw as their interests.” ‘Science Looks at How to Inspire Creativity’ by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, December 14, 2011 (Vol. 31, #14, p. 1, 16).

To oversimplify this a bit, kids do best when they want to learn; when what they learn is recognizably in their interests; when learning is fun; and especially when it’s challenging and engages them. In ‘Studio Thinking: How Visual Arts Teaching Can Promote Disciplined Habits of Mind,’ Ellen Winner observes that “focus and develop inner-directedness… (are) taught first and foremost by presenting students with challenging projects that engage them and require sustained work.”

Play as work? The arts involve play, not because the arts are easy, or even fun most of the time (and don’t say frivolous). Play in the arts is the exploration of patterns and relationships; the rehearsal of possibilities; the in-the-moment tactility, movement, sound, light, and awakening of the senses; the puzzle, thrill, and risk of learning a new form of expression, a new language; the excitement of observing and making sense of the world, the interaction of our stories, our feelings, our shared discoveries…

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About arts2grow

Arts to Grow (ATG) engages children in the artistic process by providing free, highly tailored and professionally taught arts education programs to youth in the New York metro area who have limited access to the arts. Arts to Grow collaborates closely with schools and community groups to match performing and visual arts programs and Teaching Artists with the specific needs of each group of children. ATG serves the community and society by helping children develop their full potential through the arts.

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