A Child Should Play Amongst Lovely Things

Plato? Aubert J. Clark? Apocryphal?

plato07Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and sage Plato:

The most effective kind of education is that a child should play among lovely things.

Although this quotation is popular with many educators I have never seen a proper citation. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match for this expression located by QI appeared in an article by Aubert J. Clark about Montessori teaching methods that was published in 1963 in “The Catholic Educational Review”. According to the author the Montessori approach specified that the teaching environment should be aesthetically pleasing and orderly. A footnote presented an opinion attributed to Plato. A precise textual location in “The Republic” was given, but the words were not enclosed in quotation marks. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

One is reminded of Plato’s dictum that the most effective kind of learning is that the child should play among lovely things. See The Republic, 558B. Montessorians might be agreeably surprised if they read a bit of Plato.

Location 558B in Plato’s “The Republic” did present a pertinent remark on the topic of education. But the statement used a negation and did not closely match the modern version of the saying. Nevertheless, QI believes that the quotation under investigation was derived from Plato’s words. Benjamin Jowett created the following translation which was published in 1892: 2

…we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted nature, there never will be a good man who has not from his childhood been used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a joy and a study…

Another translation of the passage from “The Republic” was crafted by Paul Shorey and is available online at the Perseus Digital Library Project: 3

…except in the case of transcendent natural gifts no one could ever become a good man unless from childhood his play and all his pursuits were concerned with things fair and good…

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Child Should Play Amongst Lovely Things


  1. 1963 January, The Catholic Educational Review, Evaluation of Montessori Postulates in the Light of Empirical Research by Rev. Aubert J. Clark, Start Page 7, Footnote 8, Quote Page 10, Published by The Catholic Education Press: Under the direction of the Department of Education of The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1892, The Dialogues of Plato: Republic, Timaeus, Critias, Volume 3 of 5, Translated by Benjamin Jowett, (Third Edition), Republic: Book VIII, Quote Page 265, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Henry Frowde, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. Perseus Digital Library Project, Title: The Republic, Author: Plato, Section: 558b, Translator: Paul Shorey, Host work title: Plato in twelve volumes: with an English translation; Republic; Vols 5-6, Publisher: Harvard university press; W. Heinemann, ltd., Place of publication: Cambridge, Mass; London Date publication: 1935-1937 (Reprint 1969-1970), About the website: Gregory R. Crane of Tufts University is Editor-In-Chief; flagship collection covers the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world. (Accessed June 26, 2014) link