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Preface “School systems are focused on overcoming their academic deficien- cies in a safe environment often at the expense of time for arts, recess, physical education classes, and after-school activities that include play- ing, despite evidence that supports that what happens in play contributes substantially to social and emotional learning, even in the classroom” (Milteer and Ginsburg 2011, e210). The slow but steady shift from play to academics may seem harmless in its increments, but it has negatively affected children’s curiosity, creativ- ity, social skills, self-regulation, problem-solving skills, knowledge of the world, and so much more. And let’s not forget about fun. The rush through childhood and the push toward academics are sucking the fun out of child- hood quicker than a five-year-old can suck the filling out of a Twinkie. We don’t like this world. Let Them Play is our way of countering these changes and putting more filling into the Twinkie. We wrote Let Them Play to show care- givers of young children another way, a way that embraces play, trusts children as learners, and values childhood. We call this alternative to the current academic push an (un)curriculum, because it is built on a solid foundation of research and real-world experience, and it is also the antithesis of what currently happens in many early learning programs. In preparing to write the book, we read a lot and talked to hundreds of parents and caregivers in both center- and family-based programs. We also called on our own experiences as parents and professional caregivers. Between the two of us, we have over thirty years of down-on-the-floor- with-the-kids experience, the result of which is this book, based on sci- entific research and full of real-life examples of how to support child-led and play-based learning. Our biggest hope is that the ideas and stories we share in Let Them Play will help you kindle a renewed passion for early learning, value play, and push back against the changes that are eroding away the best of childhood. Use your smartphone to scan this QR code to visit our Let Them Play Facebook page, or go to, where we continue the conversation about the importance of play. xiv