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Press Release

The Strong Publishes Latest Issue of the American Journal of Play

Published June 4, 2021

Friday, June 4, 2021
For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365, srhinewald@museumofplay.org

ROCHESTER, NY—In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most public places shuttered and schools struggling to adopt remote learning, many mental health experts predicted negative impacts on children, such as increased mental stress, heightened anxiety, and risks of depression. Peter Gray, professor of psychology at Boston College and one of the leading researchers on play and education, says the opposite happened for many children. Large-scale, demographically representative surveys of children and their parents conducted by the nonprofit Let Grow in March and April 2020 (analyzed by Gray) show that, for many, mental well-being improved temporarily during this time of lockdowns. The research is published in the latest issue of The Strong’s peer-reviewed American Journal of Play.

Gray writes, “A general conclusion from the Let Grow study and [others] is that children, overall, at least early in the pandemic, did not suffer psychologically as much as many clinicians and others predicted they would and that many exhibited improved psychological well-being. Adults appeared to suffer more than did children.” Gray argues that a reduction in school stress, increase in play and family time, more sleep, and extra time to pursue personal interests led to most survey respondents reporting less stress and anxiety, higher rates of happiness, and increases in appreciation for their families.

Gray writes that while children reported missing their friends and higher rates of boredom, that boredom and free time prompted many to take initiative, try new activities, and gain new interests. Being away from school and adult-driven tasks also led to increased feelings of autonomy and self-reliance, boosting the confidence of many. While demographically representative, Gray notes that the survey was limited to populations with access to a computer or smartphone and that some children did struggle during lockdown.

Still, Gray refutes the predictions of many other experts that children would suffer through the pandemic and points to the many positive ways that children and families learned to cope.

The full study and complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be read freely online. Additional articles include:

“Portrayals of Play-Based Learning: Misalignments among Public Discourse, Classroom Realities, and Research,” by Angela Pyle, Martin A. Pyle, Jessica Prioletta, and Betül Alaca. The authors write that mandated play-based learning failed to occur in half of studied classrooms, illustrating a disconnect between policy and practice. They argue that teachers are often limited by an entrenched definition of play as “child-directed,” therefore missing out on the important role of teacher-involved play,

“Video Game Play: Myths and Benefits,” by Patrick M. Markey, Christopher J. Ferguson, and Lauren I. Hopkins. The authors review the latest scientific evidence about video games, childhood obesity, and real-world violence. They conclude that playing games can be a beneficial and worthwhile activity for children when balanced with other life activities.


About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various perspectives.