In the article “Child’s play in classical Athens,” Lesley Beaumont analyzes how
children’s games were not created merely to pass time, but were seen as alternatives to helping
children develop a better understanding of how to go about life and become good citizens.
Beaumont breaks down this theory through the words of great Athens philosophers Plato and
Aristotle. The article starts by discussing the idea that sports should be involved in education
curriculum. Through sports, it would help children learn the meaning of cooperation as well as
having a very low chance of resorting to aggressive behavior in the future.
Games, toy animals, dolls, rattles etc., were initially used as a distraction for children. It
was the parent’s way of simply keeping their child from breaking anything around them and
harming themselves. However, Beaumont expresses through the beliefs of philosophers Plato
and Aristotle, that child’s play should not be used only as a distraction. It is argued that there is a
value of play in learning. There are ways a child can learn to develop that cannot be taught
simply through basic education.
There was no formal education for children in Athens, nor was there any set curriculum.
Boys attended private schools, and were taught to read, write, and basic mathematics. Aristotle
discusses how art, specifically drawing and sculpting, was the best way for the students to be
“observant of bodily beauty” (Beaumont, 33). However, he did believe that when sculptures and
painting should be censored for the young, in order to avoid any negative behavior. As for the
girls, they would learn the responsibilities of what modern terms would call a housewife. They
would learn how to cook, clean, weave, etc. Some did attend schools and were taught the same
the boys. The only difference was that they learned dance while the boys mostly did music.
As important as “standard” education (writing, literature, mathematics etc.) is, both
philosophers believed it was not the best approach for children of young ages. Beaumont states
in the words of Plato, “nothing that is learned under compulsion stays with the mind”
(Beaumont, 30). Plato believed that early education should be sort of an amusement rather than
something forced upon children. If knowledge is gained by curiosity or “fun”, then it will have a
long-term effect on the mind.
Plato also included that when a child is over three years of age, they should play games
that have some sort influence on the occupation they are to pursue. Aristotle had the same idea,
only he believed that child’s play should begin within the first couple of years of a child’s life,
when they are free of responsibility. Based off Beaumont’s analysis, children would learn
through the actions they took. For instance, infants learned how to walk by pushing toy carts
around. Young girls learned fashion,...