Have you asked your children about recess lately? What do they play, and how does it compare to your years in elementary school?
As Angela Hanscom recently found out, the school playground has changed dramatically and the number of restrictions placed on children during what is supposed to be ‘free play’ has increased.
Hanscom is a paediatric occupational therapist and popular contributor to The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet blog. She offers an interesting clinical perspective on the harmful effects of limiting playtime in schools, which one 10-year-old interviewee called, “a social injustice”.
Other children cited ridiculous rules such as no spinning on the swings, staying away from the trees, and consequences for touching snow. Restrictions intended to keep children “safe” (Angela’s quotation marks, not mine), are the very movements that Hanscom and other occupational therapists use to help treat aggressive, unregulated, and clumsy behaviour in students.
Fundamental movements like jumping, climbing and spinning “shift the fluid around in the inner ear to develop a strong vestibular (balance) sense,” explains Hanscom, which supports good body awareness, attention, and emotional regulation. When children spend the majority of their waking hours in an upright position, the development of their muscles and senses are affected. What’s more is that when children do have an opportunity for free play, their movement is significantly limited by cautionary tales.
According to Hanscom, “it’s no wonder our kids are fidgeting like crazy, crying at the drop of a hat and slumping over their desks like rag dolls,” as their senses aren’t being challenged and they need to move more. It’s a simple solution but one that everyone must work towards. Teachers. Parents. Community leaders. It’s time we come together and recognize the value of recess.