Every child has a Right to Play. Play is so important in fact that the United Nations has said that it is a basic human right for all children¹. There are many benefits to outdoor play including being essential for brain health and development. The lack of outdoor play amongst children is also becoming noticeable in North American society. Obesity is rising in children so much so that Type 2 diabetes can no longer be called adult-onset diabetes². But with all this knowledge there is still a big problem that is happening in our schools. One that is becoming archaic and needs to be challenged.
Stop Taking Away My Child’s Right to Play
There is one thing that some teachers still do which needs to stop. Teachers are taking away recess and/or physical education if a child or class has misbehaved. I have to confess. I am a teacher. Not only that but I am surrounded by hard working educators that put everything into creating quality education for their kids. But… As a teacher I know that I don’t always get everything right. In fact it is humanly impossible to be perfect. But this practice of taking away play needs to stop for 3 main reasons:
Play is a basic human right of a child
As mentioned above, the United Nations has stated that play is a basic human right of a child¹ and as educators we must create these play opportunities for our students. Not take them away.
Play encourages healthy habits
The increase in obesity and lack of exercise is clear. As educaters it is our duty to allow our children to participate in active play.
Play improves attention in school
This reason is perhaps the most important one for educators. Giving children the opportunity to be active will help improve their attention in school and is very important for brain health and cognitive health in kids³. In fact, I like to think of active play as being one of the ways I help my students to behave. Taking away their ability to actively play will only make my job as an educator more challenging because of the lack of concentration from inactivity.
Creating the Change
Oftentimes, teachers who use this way of discipline are working to manage the diverse behavioural challenges within their class. The change is up to us as educators but the support of parents, administration and the board also needs to be present.
If your child’s educator is using this practice I suggest having a calm conversation asking them about your child’s behaviour in the class. Let them know you are on their side and that you want to help your child behave better in class for them. Then ask if there are different ways they could discipline your child. Talk about the importance of activity for your child’s brain health, physical health and improving the concentration of your child.
But remember… Getting your child outside and active is just as much your job as the teachers. Try reducing screen time and increasing active play in your own house to help improve your child’s behaviour.
Classes can be challenging especially when there may be 5 or more coded children. Here are 5 alternate ways to taking away recess/physical education and still letting them play.
1. Praise Positive Behaviours. Make sure to praise those children that misbehave when they are behaving positively. Surprisingly this can go along way in a classroom.
2. Reinforce Positive Behaviour. Add in extra outdoor play time for positive behaviour or have 15 minutes of games the children like to play at the end of the day.
3. Take away screen time instead of Recess or Physical Education.
4. Remove an activity. Remove an activity outdoors like the playground. They can still play outside but need to earn the right to use “special” equipment.
5. Keep them active. Is their behaviour unsafe for an activity? Have them walk laps around cones to keep them moving so that they can still engage in the benefits of being active.
Do you think that recess and physical education are important for your children?
Teachers, what are some alternatives you use instead of taking away recess and physical education?
I would love to hear your thoughts!
1. Unicef. (Retrieved 2018, March) UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. http://www.righttoplay.ca/Act/join/Documents/Schools/Today%20We%20Play%20Resources/Children’s%20Rights.pdf
2. The New York Times. (2016, May)No Longer Just “Adult-Onset”. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/opinion/no-longer-just-adult-onset.html
3. Chaddock-Heyman Laura, Erickson Kirk, Holtrop L Joseph, Voss W. Michelle, Pontifex B. Matthew, Raine B. Lauren, Hillman H. Charles, Kramer F. Arthur. (2014, August) Aerobic fitness is associated with greater white matter integrity in children. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00584/full