"BE" Time vs Play Time

"Be" time and play time are similar in that children may elect to spend all their BE time playing. That is fine. We do offer classes and activities during "BE" time that children may attend if they choose. We ask the children what they would like to learn about and then offer a class.

The truly empowering aspect of BE time for children is that they too can offer a class or activity for others to participate in. They design the class, gather the materials and prepare much as an adult would. They lead the class and control all aspects of the experience. Classes offered by children so far include: dinosaurs, figure drawing, downloading to the PSP, and Titanic.

How and Why Do Children Need To Play?

The following information was recorded at the International Democratic Education Conference in Vancouver in August 2008. The speaker, Ms. Charlotte Landvoigt, has over 30 years of experience in education.

According to a report on NPR (National Public Radio), children who have no unstructured, unsupervised play cannot develop executive function which is among others:

  • The ability to self-regulate
  • To surmount obstacles
  • To master cognitive skills.

Unstructured play is dwindling from parents working more hours and children having to do more and sooner and sooner as though they are in a race they have to win. Play is considered a waste. Children have little free time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced the importance of unsupervised, unstructured play. The United Nations included the right the unstructured, unsupervised play in the rights of the child back in 1920.


Children at Play : Clinical and Developmental Approaches to Meaning and Representation. As they play, children do more than imagine--they also invent life-long approaches to thinking, feeling, and relating to other people. For nearly a century, clinical psychologists have been concerned with the content and interpersonal meaning of play. More recently, developmental psychologists have concentrated on the links between the emergence of symbolic play and evolving thought and language. At last, this volume bridges the gap between the two disciplines by defining their common interests and by developing areas of interface and interrelatedness.

The Value of Play

1. Children learn to put undivided attention into something.

2. An increased sense of personal value.

3. Find creative solutions to problems: ex. making up rules to games.

4. Development of executive function.

5. Learn self-talk

6. How to process emotion

7. Self-acceptance

8. Develop imagination

9. Joy and happiness

10. Skills Developed by Play

11. Communication

12. Negotiation

13. Taking responsibility for own choices

14. Pursuing interests deeply

15. Inner strength

16. Creative problem-solving

17. Solutions

18. Slow down our lives and prioritize

19. Listen to children

20. Engage with them in role play.

21. Provide raw materials: sand, clay etc.

22. Trust them and leave them alone.

Responses to the need for play so far in the US leave a lot to be desired. Instead of just providing time to play, methodologies such as Tools of the Mind have created more structure to teach executive function. In this system a child wishing to play shop has to first fill out a worksheet stating what he/she is going to do and draw a picture etc. For many this process kills the desire to play at all.

Resource: Peter Gray "The Value of Mixed Age Play" (Acrobat Reader Format)

Boys and Play

In the case of boys, the situation is fast becoming critical. Here are some figures you may be unaware of.

  • 57.4% of college degrees are awarded to girls.
  • Boys are expelled from preschool at 4 times the rate of girls.
  • Only 30% of Advance Placement course students are boys.
  • Boys are suspended more than girls.
  • 80% of valedictorians are girls.
  • Boys are scoring lower than girls in all subject areas with the gap widening with age and being most pronounced in literacy skills.
  • Boys drop out at higher rates than girls.
  • Boys are disengaged in school.
  • Most children diagnosed ADD/ADHD are boys. None of these factors seem to be affected by socio-economic status. In other words, boys, both rich and poor appear to be in the same boat.

Why Is This Happening To Boys?

According to Peg Tyre in her newly released book, " The Trouble with Boys", the problem is not with the boys, it is with a system that does not honor who they are. Many young boys just cannot sit still for long periods of time. Therefore, they fidget and struggle to concentrate. Due to preschool becoming increasingly focused on the acquisition of academic skills, 4 year olds are being asked to sit at tables or in circles for long periods, to do worksheets, and generally behave like school age children of the past.

Parents desiring children to learn math and literacy at an early age is, on the surface, commendable. Unfortunately the effects are disastrous and not at all what parents are intending. Boys need to move, especially young boys. They are high energy and boisterous. As a result they struggle to "behave" and are expelled from preschool at four times the rate of girls. They also begin to hate school early on and by third and fourth grade are highly disengaged. They are also being diagnosed as ADD/ADHD at alarming rates. From 2000 - 2005 there was a 48% increase in diagnoses and medication with Ritalin for boys. Click here for an explanation of how ADD/ADHD is diagnosed.

You may be saying that all of the above is well and good, but I want my child to have skills and get into the best schools and colleges. What is interesting here is that research clearly indicates that by first grade there is no difference academically in children who start academics in preschool and those who begin later. Researchers have found that children who attend preschools that emphasize direct instruction experience more stress at school. At ages five and six, children from academic-type preschools knew more letters and numbers than their peers who attended nonacademic preschools, but by first grade those advantages had disappeared. Researchers have also found that children from academically oriented preschools are less creative and less enthusiastic about learning than their peers who attended nonacademic preschools. And here's the clincher: Kids who attend academic preschools may also do, in the long run, do more poorly in school.

The causes and effects of what is happening with boys are fully discussed and examined in Peg's excellently written book. She also gives balanced, supportive and surprising information on girls. It is our opinion that every parent and teacher should read it. Click here to order.