The Benefits of Play

As chilly winter days transition into balmy spring time, children and adults both anticipate spending more time outdoors.  Unfortunately, the school environment doesn’t always cooperate with the onset of spring fever as students prepare for and take mandated tests or complete end of year projects.  Some classes forgo recess altogether in order to focus on academic excellence.  A nationwide study on how first through fifth grade children spend their time at school found that on a randomly selected day, 21% of children did not have any recess  at all.

What are the benefits of recess?  Here are a few:

  • Brain research show a relationship between physical activity and the development of brain connections.
  • Children who are active at school continue to be active at home.
  • Children develop social and behavioral skills as they learn to exercise leadership, negotiate, take turns and resolve conflicts.
  • Memory and attention are improved when learning is spaced out and recess provides a necessary break from academics.
  • Play for children is not just a social and physical outlet, it is a real learning activity.

How can adults encourage positive play? The best way is by setting the stage before hand.

  • Just as in the classroom, develop a specific set of rules for children to follow.  Encourage them to be a part of the process and then commit to following the rules.
  • Brainstorm games that encourage responsibility, cooperation, and communication. Make a list of the games to facilitate child choice.
  • Anticipate and discuss the most  common problems that are encountered on the playground:  not including everyone in a game, not encouraging others or putting someone down because of a lack of ability, not following the rules.
  • Develop a system for students to solve problems when they occur.  Practice with role-play how to handle disagreements.
  • Regularly review the process to see how it is working.

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Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

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