Let Grow Play Club Encourages Independent Play

RocketKids Article

Many of today’s school children spend their out-of-school time in adult-directed activities, from soccer to dance class to tutoring, without much unstructured free play time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, playing has so many benefits including less stress, improved academic performance and social-emotional resilience. Hannah Wolfman-Jones, a former environmental engineer and current parent at NewGate Montessori School in Sarasota is hoping to change this for her son and other local children by bringing Let Grow Play Club to Sarasota.

“There is mounting evidence that heavily monitored and scheduled childhoods make kids less resilient and more anxious and depressed, but free play with minimal adult intervention can counter these trends,” says Wolfman-Jones. “This play club is a step in that direction and will be hosted at the New Gate school playgrounds or at a local park and supervised by parent volunteers.”

Let Grow Play Club is a chance for students ages 6-12 and their siblings to play independently and together outdoors. The Club is the brainchild of Let Grow co-founder Dr. Peter Gray, the eminent psychologist who has spent his life studying the crucial role of unstructured, mixed-age “free play” in developing children’s creativity, confidence, and ability to thrive. As Dr. Gray explains: “Children who have more opportunities than others for independent activities are not only happier in the short run, because the activities engender happiness and a sense of trustworthiness and competence, but also happier in the long run, because independent activities promote the growth of mental capacities for coping effectively with life’s inevitable stressors.”

Wolfman-Jones says that her goal is to provide kids a chance to play freely in mixed-age groups outdoors without caregivers breathing down their necks. She feels that this gives them a chance to come up with activities, resolve conflicts, and make friends on their own and provides many opportunities for growth as well as relaxation and fun.

“Modern childhood is often dominated by adult-led activities and screen time, at the expense of old-fashioned independent free play,” she says. “The result has been a meteoric rise in anxiety and depression in children. Let Grow Play Club counters these trends by letting kids do what they do best - get outside and play!”

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