Is a Lack of Free Play for Kids Endangering Democracy?

Free play, also known as child-directed play, is becoming more and more restricted for American kids. We’ve talked on PlayGrounding many times about the importance of free play, how it’s where many children first encounter risk and freedom. It’s where they first begin to encounter “otherness,” where they find ways to work together with kids of various ages and backgrounds in an undefined arena. Play helps us cope in the realm of personal relationships, helps us develop innovative minds and healthy bodies.

But today we’re taking a step back from the benefits of play to us as individuals and diving into what it could mean for our society, for the health of our democracy, when we restrict free play in the lives of our children.

Pratik Chougule, an executive editor at The American Conservative, wrote an article entitled Is American Childhood Creating an Authoritarian Society? I was immediately fascinated by the idea that there could be political implications to a lack of free play.

In this episode, we’ll discuss studies showing possible connections between child rearing practices and the likelihood that those children will tolerate authoritarian forms of government. We’ll also talk about how free play helps us learn to handle opposing ideas and work toward consensus.

I hope you enjoy the episode and as always, please feel free to submit your own ideas in the comments or by contacting me to keep the conversation going.

Pratik Chougule is an executive editor at The American Conservative. He was previously the managing editor at The National Interest and served as the policy coordinator on the 2016 presidential campaign of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Chougule has contributed to projects for the Trilateral Commission, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and Baron Public Affairs. He has assisted a number of senior officials with their memoirs, including former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. From 2008-2009, Chougule was a Bush appointee at the State Department in the Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. Chougule graduated from Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University and holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Follow him on twitter @pjchougule. He can be reached via email at Sign up for his email list here.

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