Updated 2021-09-30

Free to Learn

Developmental psychologist (and ASDE co-founder) Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development.
Peter Gray author
Non-Fiction Books


Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests — often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling — and life — as a series of hoops to struggle through.

Our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.

Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better — and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling.

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