PLAY: ESSENTIAL FOR ALL CHILDREN
A Position Paper of the Association for Childhood Education
Joan Packer Isenberg and Nancy Quisenberry
, 2002 (see more reference material at the end)
Children are growing up in a rapidly changing world characterized by dramatic shifts in what
all children are expected to know and be able to do. Higher and tougher standards of learning
for all populations of students are focusing on a narrow view of learning. Consequently, students
have less time and opportunity to play than did children of previous generations. Few would
disagree that the primary goal of education is student learning and that all educators, families,
and policymakers bear the responsibility of making learning accessible to all children. Decades
of research has documented that play has a crucial role in the optimal growth, learning, and
development of children from infancy through adolescence. Yet, this need is being challenged,
and so children's right to play must be defended by all adults, especially educators and parents.
The time has come to advocate strongly in support of play for all children.
The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) recognizes
the need for children of all ages to play and affirms the essential role of play in children's lives.
ACEI believes that as today's children continue to experience pressure to succeed in all areas, the
necessity for play becomes even more critical. ACEI supports all adults who respect, understand,
and advocate legitimizing play as an essential pathway to learning for all populations of children.
When working with children, adults should use their knowledge about play to guide their
The 1988 ACEI position statement on play, "Play: A Necessity for All Children" (ACEI/Isenberg
& Quisenberry, 1988), has been widely cited and continues to influence the thinking of
educators. Unfortunately, the issues presented in 1988 remain unresolved today. The
fundamental beliefs, guiding principles, and recommended practices in this position paper are
similar to those in the 1988 paper, and continue to be rooted in the latest research, theory, and
exemplary practice. We first discuss ACEI's beliefs about play and cite the supporting research
and theory. Then, we discuss the guiding principles and practices for play experiences. Finally,
we present ACEI's call to action on play.
ACEI believes that play--a dynamic, active, and constructive behavior--is an essential and
integral part of all children's healthy growth, development, and learning across all ages,
domains, and cultures.
Play is a dynamic process that develops and changes as it becomes increasingly more varied and
complex. It is considered a key facilitator for learning and development across domains, and
reflects the social and cultural contexts in which children live (Christie, 2001; Fromberg, 1998,