School is a place for learning and not for fun and games. Almost every elementary school student is familiar with this tired phrase. Maybe their parents have said it, or worse yet their teachers. Even afterschool activities such as recess, gym, and organized sports have come under some undue scrutiny over the years. However, children learn things that are not only important for health reasons, but are important for their overall growth.
First and foremost, playtime is necessary for a child’s health and well-being. This is true especially because America is a country gripped by an obesity epidemic. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) defines obesity as having an excess of body fat (Center for Disease Control, n.d.). This problem has impacted our youth quite seriously, as childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. More to the point, the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 years old in the United States who are considered obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008 (Center for Disease Control, n.d.). These are scary statistics that only seem to be getting worse.
The CDC makes clear that healthy lifestyle habits, including physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese (Center for Disease Control, n.d.). Good habits start in the home, but they need to continue while the student is at school. This includes having access things like recess, gym, and sports. However, there is more to playtime than the health related benefits.
Playtime and Academics
During a child’s formative years, playtime can be important because it encourages creativity and imagination. Simply put, children need to play in order to learn. This is quite evident when watching the way in which kindergarteners interact with one another. Children need to build with blocks, put together puzzles, play with paint, and use their imaginations in role-playing scenarios.
Ask yourself, “How important are these activities for my child’s academic performance?” The answer is: “Very important!” Children who play with blocks are taught about math and science. Working with puzzles activates the brain cells, which increases efficiency and capacity. During this process, the brain produces a chemical called dopamine that is responsible for learning and memory.
When kids paint, they develop an understanding of color and design. Crafting and drawing enhances the muscle development and documentation skills needed for writing. Finally, role-playing scenarios bolster imagination and creativity. These play sessions can teach children about social bonds while they learn to work well within a group.
Playtime for Older Students
These playtime activities are an important part of early childhood education, but as your child grows up, playtime continues to be a necessary part of his or her development. Today’s children have a very structured classroom setting, which can result in lost opportunities for exploration and imagination. Recess, gym, and organized sports are an integral part of a well-balanced learning environment because “exercise could help ramp up the development of a child’s brain (Richardson, 2009).” Research shows that, “children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than non-players, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean (Almon, Miller, 2009, p. 2).” Children’s behavior is conditioned during playtime. These sessions act as microcosms for the real world where the children are put into situations that force them to interact with one another in a constructive manner.
School is a place for shaping young minds and teaching students the skills that will prepare them for late in life. Playtime, including recess, gym, and organized sports, should fit into every school curriculum not only because it helps aid in student stress relief, but also because it is a crucial part of their educational growth.
Author: Amanda Ahlstrom, Franchise Manager at A Grade Ahead
Revised by: Abby Greene, Editor and Teacher at A Grade Ahead
- Almon, Joan and Edward Miller. (n.d.) Crisis in the Kindergarten Why Children Need to Play in School. Retrieved from http://earlychildhoodcolorado.org/inc/uploads/Crisis_in_Kindergarten.pdf
- Center for Disease Control. (n.d.). Adolescent and School Health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/
- Richardson, Vanessa. (2009). A Fit Body Means a Fit Mind. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/exercise- fitness-brain-benefits-learning