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Home | Insights | Episode 10: Play & Our Mental Health––Why Our Kids & Teens are Struggling with Dr. Peter Gray

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Episode 10: Play & Our Mental Health––Why Our Kids & Teens are Struggling with Dr. Peter Gray

This week on The Heartful Parent Podcast, I bring you a thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology and neuroscience at Boston College. Dr. Gray has conducted and published research in behavioral biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. 

Dr. Gray and I focus this conversation on the play of children and how impactful play (or lack of play) is on the mental health of our children and teens. We dig into how the decrease of casual play is directly related to the increase in depression and anxiety in children and teens today.

Dr. Gray discusses how children need to develop in 3 key areas to have their basic psychological needs met: autonomy/decision-making, competence in things they care about, and a feeling of connectedness to other people. All 3 of these key areas are developed for children through play. 

Dr. Gray shares ideas of what some parents and professionals have already done to close the widening gap in play and independent activity and what parents can do right now to begin to make changes. He also shares how to tap into resources from Let Grow ( which is the nonprofit that he works with to incorporate mixed-age, unstructured play back into schools and communities.

Find Dr. Gray on Facebook, and be sure to check out Dr. Peter Gray’s most recent article that was published in the Journal of Pediatrics. You can also find more of his articles and research on his website and from his book Free to Learn

Please rate, review, subscribe, and share this episode with other parents who may be looking find ways to make an impact on the high rates of anxiety and depression that our kids are facing by implementing these ideas from Dr. Peter Gray as well as other topics I have covered on The Heartful Parent Podcast.


 Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Wellbeing: Summary of the Evidence by Dr. Peter Gray

Free to Learn by Peter Gray and Dan Woren

Playborhood by Mike Lanza

Let Grow Organization


Episode 10 transcript

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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.