For Young Children, Play at School is as Important as Work
Education has seen a resurgence of factual overload and English and math drills, even for young children. As the charter movement takes the United States by storm, many young people, some as young as 6 or 7 years old, are finding themselves stuck inside of a classroom all day, with infrequent opportunities for play at recess or team building time.
This is especially the case in urban education. Educators are concerned with “closing the achievement gap” and “catching up” students who are behind their peers who have historically had more access to quality educational resources. When educators operate with extended school days that do not include any time for unstructured freedom or play outdoors, children lose valuable – yes, valuable – playtime.
According to a Time Magazine article, research has shown that recess is just as important for children’s development as being in the classroom. Pediatricians are advocating for unstructured playtime simply because, especially at a young age, kids just need a break.
When a school is focused too intently on playing catch-up with students who came in below standard grade level, play falls very easily by the wayside as teachers jump quickly from one subject to the next, essentially overloading children with knowledge and information that they cannot process all at once. Creating scheduled time in the day for an unstructured break creates downtime between the complicated intellectual challenges that kids face in each subject they study.
Very few states actually impose mandatory recess or physical education. Only three, in fact – Delaware, Virginia and Nebraska – require 20 minutes of recess every day. And, as child development specialists note, recess and physical education are in no way the same thing. While the often-unmet standard of 150 minutes per week of physical education is a crucial piece of elementary education, the unstructured nature of recess sets it apart.
Without intentionally scheduled play built into school days, children’s attention spans and capabilities for processing information suffer. These children end up finding little enjoyment in school. Even worse, according to a study by the New York Times, is when teachers take away recess or unstructured playtime as punishment for misbehavior, often from the kids who most need a break from classroom time.
For many children, physical education and recess are also the only forms of exercise that they get away from home. Young children, like all people, need to exercise frequently. Because children are less self-aware than adults, exercise – just like play – must be an intentional aspect of their schedules. Without recess or even a period of structured physical activity, these kids lose all the benefits of exercise. With child obesity on the rise, this is a problem that schools could help to solve rather than contribute to.
PDF version on Slide Share – The Chicago School Reviews