Monthly Archives: October 2014

The play deficit – Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure.

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Without the freedom to play they will never grow up.

When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it. Click for more.
(Peter Gray is a psychologist and research professor at Boston College. He writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of Free to Learn (2013)

I sometimes tire of folks claiming everything was better in their youth or in the good ole days. But I thrived in a childhood like Peter’s, and I think he is on to something. It may have been better for children then. What do you think? John

““The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, and yet excited my senses.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder ”


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The Economist explains – How do Unit Blocks help children learn.

wood unit blocks

Unit blocks, developed by early-childhood education pioneer Caroline Pratt in 1913, are , found in classrooms in America and beyond for the past century. Ms Pratt designed her blocks while standing on the shoulders of giants, notably Friedrich Fröbel, the originator of kindergarten education, who believed in the value of play to shape behaviour and aid in children’s intellectual and emotional growth. How do unit blocks help children learn?

Fröbel spent the first half of the 19th century tinkering with the oddball notion that even very young children could learn scientific, artistic and natural principles simply by playing with various physical objects, which he called “gifts”. This was a big departure from the idea of learning via adult-led activities or, for older children, rote memorization.  Click to read more.  Some of my hardwood Red Oak unit blocks appear in the pictures above and below or at my website


I’ve never believed that a really good craftsman is intended for a tremendous public. A museum can show a thing or two to countless people, but the craftsman lives in a condition where the size of his public is almost in inverse proportion to the quality of his work…finally, this craftsman is the one who does the work himself, and gives people something very personal; not very much of it, but very personal and therefore not accessible to everyone.

James Krenov   –   A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook

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