Do we need Worldwide Day of Play?

worldwide day of play“Will you PUULLEEZZE go outside and play?” Words I remember from my childhood. Not because I was sitting in front of a video device too long, but because I was probably playing and running throughout the house. Yes, and those words were sometimes said when it was raining.

Nowadays times to play are scheduled. Oh, it’s more than play dates with age-mates; it’s become worldwide events to remind people to play.

Earlier this year, Global Day of School Play (#GDSP) encouraged schools to get the students outside to play. Saturday, September 30 is designated as Worldwide Day of Play (#WWDOP) by Nickelodeon. WWDOP includes team registration and guides for events. The guide is full of information from organizations and organized activities, such as soccer tournament, fitness challenges, and even a participation certificate. Because it is on a Saturday, WWDOP can include the entire family.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for play, not just one day a year, but every day of the year. I have no objection to organized play activities, occasionally. Whatever happened to spontaneous and imaginative play?

Some can be blamed on the video culture, which began in the 1960s with Saturday morning cartoons. I believe some can be blamed on parents. Yes, I said parents. A couple of trends have happened in recent decades.

First trend is the self-esteem movement. It started somewhere in the 1980s. Every effort was made to ensure that every child had good self-esteem by having non-competitive competitions in which every participant was a winner and received an award. This is the time that started the culture of organized activities for everything including playground play.

Second trend came around in the 1990s with the 24/7 news media. What was once on the local evening news is now broadcast nationally and internationally. Just last night, I received a “breaking news” alert from a major network about a bus crash in Seattle – I live in Texas. Crimes against children have taken on a life of their own. The media stories have become so sensationalized that fear now outweighs facts. Children can’t be left to their own devices because of perceived dangers. Just take a look at these numbers compiled and resourced by Lenore Skenazt at Free Range Kids.

Abductions in Perspective

  • Number of children age 2 – 14 killed in car accidents, as passengers: 1300
  • Number of children killed each year by their family members and acquaintances: About 1000
  • Number of children abducted in “stereotypical kidnappings” (kidnapped by a stranger for ransom or for sexual purposes and/or transported away) in 1999, the most recent year for which we have statistics: 115.
  • Number of children killed by their abductor: About 50.

Murders of children by abductors constitute less than one-half of 1% of all murders in America.

Stranger Danger?

Of all children under age 5 murdered from 1976-2005 —

  • 31% were killed by fathers
  • 29% were killed by mothers
  • 23% were killed by male acquaintances
  • 7% were killed by other relatives
  • 3% were killed by strangers

(For more about child abduction statistics, read this Washington Post article.)

The media-created fear has created the helicopter parent of the 2000s and robbed children of important free, independent, and imaginative play.

So now we have planned days of play.

Go ahead and take advantage of the Worldwide Day of Play.

  • Don’t worry about plans.
  • Just walk away from the devices, even you parents—leave those cell phones at home—go somewhere and have fun together.
  • Then do it again next week, and again the next week, and again…

Soon you and your child will find out that play is not dangerous, play doesn’t need organization, and play is fun.

Who knows, maybe you’ll want to leave the devices turned off more often and allow imagination flow.

What will you do for Worldwide Day of Play (#WWDOP)?

Download “Let Them Play“, from my book Preschool: At What Cost?, for information and ideas about young children playing.

Read “Play: Learning for Everyone.


Comments (2)

  1. Reply


    It’s so ironic that I happened upon your post, as I recently listened to a podcast in which Lenore Skenazt was being interviewed. I never thought about all of the misinformation that has brought about the changes in the way our kids play. Like you, I’m from the generation of “get outside and play”. It’s a shame that our world has devolved in this way

  2. Susan K. Stewart


    Yes, Natalie, things have certainly changed. The sad part is that children are not learning to think responsibly or independently with so much hovering.

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