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We Need More Play in the School Day

We’ve partnered with The Genius of Play to join in discussions about play in a series they call “Play Talk”.  On their website, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, they are asking parents to give their opinions on the following topics:

  • Do Sports Count as Play?
  • Should Kids Play Unsupervised?
  • Kids & Screens
  • Should schools need to allow more play – including recess?

We have opinions on all of these topics, but the last one hits home for us because we are seeing the effects first-hand as both parents, and for Lisa, as a teacher.  We’ve witnessed the stress that today’s schools put on our children, and we firmly believe that more play is essential to their emotional well-being.  Here’s what some other parents had to say about the play at school:

Our kids will be entering First and Fifth Grade this September.  We know there will be the usual nerves and uncertainty with going into a new classroom with a new teacher.  But what worries us most is the increased pressure they will experience as they advance from grade to grade.  Slowly, but surely, from Kindergarten and on up, play is steadily removed from the school experience and replaced by more and more constraints.

Jackson’s journey is still at its beginning, but we’ve seen Bella struggle more and more each year with the lack of outlets for her creativity.  The opportunities to express herself in the classroom are fewer and farther between.  In addition, the amount of homework has increased as well, which means she is essentially bringing the stress home with her after school.

As parents, we find ourselves seeing more and more tests, quizzes, and study sheets coming home instead of projects.  The occasional field trips and creative assignments are a breath of fresh air and a temporary relief from the day-to-day routine.  But they are not enough to counteract the constant pressure.  And as parents who only see the test scores coming home, we also fall into the trap of only discussing these results. We end up feeding into that pressure.

What playtime do our children really get in school? Don’t you think it’s weird that we introduce our children to learning through play, but then steadily take it away from them as they grow? Our kids get to go to Art, Music, and Library once each week.  They get to go to Gym twice.  Throw in about 20 minutes of recess time each day to truly be playful.  That’s simply not enough.  We’re all for learning and challenging kids, but we know our children need to be emotionally ready to learn.

This is not just our child, either.  20 years ago, Lisa began her teaching career armed with a philosophy that children learn best by doing.  Back then, the classroom was a fun place to be.  Children could create, manipulate, color and play.  But as education has shifted to a test-driven curriculum, all of that has changed.  Crayons and paints have been replaced by workbooks and sample tests. Kids now spend more time refining their test-taking skills than using their imaginations and creativity.

She’s also seen a change in the students themselves. With less outlets, many more students are fidgety and unfocused.  She’s also noticed a widening divide between students who are able to keep up and those who can’t.  Students with learning needs or whose strengths lie in areas no longer prioritized in the classroom are left feeling less worthy than their classmates.

We believe more play is the answer.  Not an extra ten or 20 minutes of recess per day, but more learning through play in the classroom itself.  We need to teach the whole child and foster the skills that make each student unique.

But how do we do that?

As parents, there are a few things we can do to help.

  • Play with our kids – Make play a priority at home. Find ways to say “yes” to play!
  • Make our voices heard – Talk to other parents. Join your PTA. Our PTA does a lot to bring fun into school.
  • Support Your Schools – Foster relationships with teachers and administrators. We’re all on the same team.
  • Vote – Pay attention to elections for your local school board and local government.


What do you think?



Leave us a comment, or visit The Genius of Play to join the discussion there.



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