The Importance Of Play

I am a strong advocate of the importance of play in a child’s life. I think it is very easy to become serious about life and have high expectations of children. Childhood to me seems to becoming shorter. The new stage of tweens seems to have children growing up much earlier than previous generations. Homework workloads now begin early in primary school and the volume of work consumes time that would have once been spent playing.

I was then happy to read the following article in the New York Times:

The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess

The article is based on a new study which has been published in the Official Journal Of The American Academy of Pediatrics.

This study examines the amount of recess that children 8 to 9 years of age receive in the United States and compares the group classroom behavior of children receiving daily recess with that of children not receiving daily recess.

The key finding was that the children having better class behavior scores as rated by their teacher’s. This finding may make teachers rethink their discipline strategy whereby the keep children in at recess as a form of punishment for poor behaviour.

As the lead researcher, Dr. Romina M. Barros, a pediatrician and an assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine summed up this situation:

“Recess should be part of the curriculum,” she said. “You don’t punish a kid by having them miss math class, so kids shouldn’t be punished by not getting recess.”

The article then looks at other related studies, one in particular which looks at the importance of play in a child’s life. They quote psychiatrist and founder of National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown who has collected more than 6,000 “play histories” from human subjects:

Teachers feel like they’re under huge pressures to get academic excellence to the exclusion of having much fun in the classroom. But playful learning leads to better academic success than the skills-and-drills approach.

It is worth reading the complete New York Times article. (You may have to register, it only takes a minute and access is free.) I hope that educators will use this new research and take into consideration when looking at the way they teach this generation of children.