Let Them Play
So now it’s recess. Well, as a former high-energy boy, I’m not sure what I’d done if I had been forced to while away all the hours of the school day in a structured environment. Back in my day, we had a morning and afternoon recess (plus a lunch break!). The promise of those pending breaks are what got me through the hours spent in class. I knew that after math, I’d be back playing kickball or whatever else. And yeah, I’d have to go back into class, but the physical energy spent somehow helped to focus my young mind on the task at hand. Funny how that works.
But now we’re told there just isn’t enough time in the day to meet all of the requirements demanded by government and, implicitly, parents. So traditional recess of the free-form variety is being done away in favor of a more structured version. Just what our kids need: more structure in their already too-structured play time.
My wife, a member of our school’s PTO who is at the school most days, has told me how she watches the kids at recess and that they have no clue how to play by themselves. For instance, soccer games quickly devolve into anything goes free-for-alls where the ball is usually carried (more like rugby). That’s why there are programs in some schools that are actually teaching kids how to play. How sad. But at least these programs are aimed at giving the tools and ability to play on their own. A shorter, more structured “recess” will do just the opposite.
The problem is that we’ve raised–and continue to raise–a generation that thinks it needs adult supervision to play a game. Self-organizing doesn’t happen. Kids are over-scheduled in their free time, whether it be dance or sports or karate or whatever. Too often, instead of fostering an interest, these organized forms of recreation end up being the only kind that kids get. Recess is one of the last places where they can just do what kids are supposed to do: play.