I ran across an old interview on NPR that talks about play and it's recent focus on toys rather than activity and the resulting negative impact on self-regulation. Self-regulation is the greatest indicator of academic success, but I also think the social implications are important, too. Kids who can self-regulate feel good in groups- and alone. And this is important, too. Imaginative play really fosters growth in self-regulation. We must protect play.
It's interesting to me --as a classroom teacher and as a parent-- to see kids (and adults) who consistently can't fill time alone. Their play is about stuff; it's not about ideas. They need electronics, TV, structured activities, some outside stimulus.
Kids need less stuff. Kids need to have time and space for sustained play. Kids need breaks from screens (their own and their parents' cell phones, computers, TV). Kids need to breathe fresh air and to exercise their bodies and their minds. Kids need to connect- in person- with others and also themselves.
It's interesting to me that people will elevate play when facing studies that link play with academics, but, really, we should just have children playing because they enjoy it and it's what they are supposed to do.
I'm not sure if schools alone can "fix" this. If self-regulation isn't learned in play, it takes much longer to develop. How do we fix this? I think carving some time in lower grades for play, protecting recess and special areas, looking at supporting play in child-care environments, and by starting conversations with families about play in all it's simplicity and necessity would be a great start. Another great start is teaching grown-ups to personally embrace play: hiking, sewing, tap dancing, singing, joking, wine-tasting, pond skating, and coming together with others.
Maybe this rant isn't about protecting play. Maybe it's really about why I don't need to clean our basement. It's not a mess; the kids are just self-regulating down there.
A former classroom teacher, I am currently teaching Reading Intervention part-time for a public school district and am continuing my work as a part-time literacy consultant, working with teachers to refine their Reading and Writing Workshops. I also volunteer with children and their families in our community for storytelling, book-making, and writing workshops.
At home, I am raising two readers and writers, now ages 5 and 9. We are an enthusiastic public-schooling family.
This blog is about finding common ground and joy with educational philosophy and parenting.