Meeting Peter Gray

 Jack and I have enjoyed reaching out and meeting people as a way of informing ourselves and advancing our learning along the way. We started by practically stumbling into camp directors and their camps in the the year we spent on the road. In the past few months we have had the fortune to meet and now partner with Dr. Peter Gray.

Peter Gray is an evolutionary psychologist. He is a professor at Boston College and the author of the book and popular Psychology Today blogs titled “Free to Learn”. Peter has been an inspiration to us since we started to dive into the “why” of summer camp. His work on free play or child directed play has informed the founding concepts behind Stomping Ground.

About a month ago Jack and I had a chance to visit Peter Gray in his home in Norfolk, Massachusetts, for lunch. We were beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with him and hear more of his insights into childhood today.

Peter talks a lot about the importance of unstructured, free play. Speaking from an evolutionary perspective, play is essential to the process of learning. We learn how to learn through play. Testing, experimenting, creating, and informing our curiosity. In today’s culture there is so much emphasis on academic rigor and measuring up and getting ready for the future. Unfortunately I think this often comes at the expense of social and physical and mental health.

Peter points to numerous studies that indicate that the rise in depression and anxiety in children is correlated with the decrease in free, unstructured play.

Jack and I were warmly welcomed into Peter's home and enjoyed some lentil soup and cranberry bread and cheese for lunch. We then sat around his wood fire stove and talked about the power of summer camp and what we can do to help our campers and our staff get back to the roots of play and why that is important. We talked about the shortcomings of school and how we as a culture and society have landed so far down the path of prescribed cookie cutter activities for kids. We talked about the fear that drives parents to hover and design childhood for their kids. It was an incredibly riveting conversation as we were still there almost 4 hours later.

I feel so grateful to be part of a movement as wholehearted and genuine as getting free play back into the lives of children.


PS Spots are running out for this summer. We would love you to join us. Give me a call or swing over to the registration page to reserve your spot.