Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Taught to Play?

You are not going to believe this--or perhaps maybe, like me, you are thinking you knew it would come to this.The Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton, Mass., is paying $23,500 to the national non-profit Playworks to teach children how to play.


Yes, that's right. They are going to teach children how to play old-school activities like jump-rope, four square, capture the flag, kickball, hula-hoop and so on.

Playworks says things I can't believe need to be said, but none-the-less I have been saying them for years. [Why didn't I think of marketing play?]
  • Recess is the single biggest opportunity to raise the level of physical activity for all children
  • Teachers cite improved behavior in the classroom when students have recess.
  • Time and time again, research has shown that healthy play and recess help kids succeed in the classroom
  • Kindergarteners are under intense pressure to meet testing standards while also being denied play time, leading to a rise in aggression and behavioral problems.
  • Play creates essential opportunities for children to explore their imaginations, to connect with other people and to stretch and grow physically, emotionally and socially.
  • Play creates an important opportunity to teach kids conflict resolution skills.
  • We believe that rock-paper-scissors is a perfectly adequate problem-solving tool most of the time. [I LOVE this statement!]
And, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free, unstructured play is essential for keeping children healthy, and for helping them reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Unstructured play also helps kids manage stress and become resilient.

I believe this.

I believe that kids need more time to play without being in an organized sport or league or lessons. They need more time to play, to work off energy, to make up their own games and to created their own entertainment. In this entertainment culture kids don't have enough time to think, to dream, to be bored and to have to find their own remedy.

I admit, I can't believe that kids need to be taught to play, but then again, maybe I can. Kids today are so scheduled between school, day care, various lessons and clubs there is only so much time in a day and no time to play. But honestly, if we want no child left behind, children need time to play, to run, to shout, to create their own fun.

I visited the local elementary school a couple of years ago on a lovely winter day in Kentucky. The sun was shining and it just under 30 degrees outside. No kids were out playing. I asked one little girl about it, and she said they never went outside to play until the temperature was over 35 degrees!
Can you believe it?

They just read or played quietly or just didn't do any type of unstructured recess time. I can't imagine what torture that must be for the more active children. No wonder so many kids need to be medicated to make it through the school day. [In all fairness, at this school, each individual teacher supervises recess whenever they want to. So, this teacher didn't like cold weather, so the kids it that class did not go out. Other teachers, from more sturdy stock, did take their kids out for recess . I guess the days of teachers taking a little break while the kids go out and are overseen by monitors are long gone. Pity.]

My fondest memories of elementary school were the THREE recesses we took every day. Fifteen minutes each morning and each afternoon and 30 minutes after lunch. And, for the record, I grew up in Michigan where we played outside every day unless it was raining, regardless of the temperature. We had to wear dresses back in those days too, but we pulled on our play pants under our dresses for recess time, put on our boots, mittens, scarfs and whatever warm things our mom sent with us, and out we went. I can't believe how adults have robbed children of the joy of play, and much of it done in the name of safety or academic necessity or enrichment.

Less conflict.
Better attention span.
Children explore their imaginations.
And they wear off calories and energy to boot.

Sounds too good to be true. Cheap, old fashioned, fun and can be done anywhere.

Playing...Gotta love it! Recess anyone?

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