The Case for More Playtime in School

  • November 10, 2016 /

Over the past couple of decades, trends show a decline in playtime among schools, making more room for tests and test prep.  In response to schools cutting back on playtime, often forcing students to learn for six hours without a break, parents are fighting back — and the child development experts are on their side. A growing number of studies proves playtime meets children’s social, emotional and physical needs, promoting healthy brain development and learning. Gather the research, listen to the experts and the message is clear — playtime is important.

Playtime meets children’s social and emotional needs.

Countless studies prove playtime promotes stronger social and emotional development.  Experts link playtime to improvements in academic skills, classroom behavior, healthy emotional attitudes and better adjustment to school life. Playtime also lowers stress and anxiety, minimizing outburst, nail-biting and temper tantrums.

On the playground or in the gym is where students relax and recharge their batteries, develop social skills and make giant strides in autonomy, communication and respect for rules. Struggling students gain confidence in an environment proven to reduce school violence.

Children also mix better during recess, blurring the lines between boys and girls, young children and old, and children from different cultures. Children gain the chance to break away from classmates, collect their thoughts and be alone for a while. Playtime becomes an important reason for children to come to school every day.

Playtime promotes brain development and learning.

Beyond social and emotional development, playtime boosts language development, problem solving, risk management and independent learning skills. Brain imaging shows children learn better after a break for physical activity and unstructured play. Extra recess in school can also improve discipline, focus and academic success.

French schools also notice playtime between lessons improves behavior, concentration and learning. By enhancing early development by as much as 33% to 67%, playtime is good for both educational development and everyday intellectual life. Playtime promotes the balance of work and letting off steam that children need to flourish in a healthy educational environment.

Experts also link playtime to creative problem-solving, cooperation and logical thinking. On the playground, children establish a sense of self-worth, using their own resources of mind and body to engage in imaginative activities. Children explore and exercise their own sense of wonder, boosting creativity in the process.

Playtime meets children’s physical needs. 

More than just keep children fit, playtime decreases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and inactive lifestyles. Outdoor play especially stimulates the senses — from the breath of fresh air, to the smell of fresh plants, to the feel of green grass, and the run to a favorite slide.

The playground is also where children learn about their bodies and how to control themselves in their environment. Activities like jumping rope, kickball and hopscotch encourage students to take turns, negotiate rules and cooperate.