Bringing out the Best: Notes from the Playground

Principal Greg John’s book reminds adults how much kids learn through play.

With the advent of Playworks’ 20th Anniversary and our aim of reaching 3.5 million kids in 7,000 schools by 2020, I am launching a new blog called "Bringing out the Best." The idea is to highlight amazing work by Playworks’ partners to bring out the best in our communities through play. I am excited for this chance to learn more about the state of play, and I welcome your suggestions for stories!

From the moment I met Principal Greg John out on the playground, I knew he understood the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. Greg is one of the most curious people I know. Despite the very real demands of being a principal, he approaches the job with an uncommon openness and excitement. When I learned that Greg was sharing his observations in writing, I was thrilled.

The vignettes in Greg’s new book, Notes from the Playground, chart the unfolding of young hearts as children stand up, get knocked down, and stand once again. They carry one back to what it was like to step onto this asphalt proving ground, and underscore how play contributes to kids' physical and emotional well-being; their academic achievement; and their capacity for trust, self-control, and conflict resolution.

Play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith wrote, "The opposite of play is not work; the opposite of play is depression." Play is kids' work. Greg’s writing provides a much-needed and empathic focus on the child’s perspective: the playground is recognized as the place where it all happens. Through play, children gain the ability to handle failure, to work in teams, and to take risks.

Notes from the Playground makes clear that play matters because people matter, and that play represents a tremendous opportunity for people to get to know one another—to see and be seen by others. Far from frivolous, play is portrayed as important developmental work. Experiences on the playground spill over into classrooms, homes, jobs, and relationships. They make a greater contribution to how children see themselves and to who they become than much of what they learn in school.

Notes from the Playground reminds adults of the world that children see, and in sharing that perspective, it offers the chance for us to imagine the world our kids deserve—one in which through play, they grow into the kind of grown-ups we so desperately need them to become.

More Stories of Play


kids and adults on tv set
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