I was with my daughter at an elementary school playground recently. She’s not-quite-three, so some of the equipment was a little challenging for her. I hung back, watching her try to figure out how to use her muscles to allow her to climb, crawl through small spaces, and make some of the equipment work. When she asked for help, I offered verbal suggestions about how she could move her body to achieve her goal. She played very happily for quite a while.
As we were leaving, I noticed the sign pictured above posted on the side of a building adjacent to the playground. At first, I laughed. I also felt grateful that some sympatico someone tried to cross out rule #7. But when I really started thinking about it, I felt bummed and more than a little irritated.
Let’s be clear: I’m all for child safety. As the parent of an extremely active and extremely injury-prone kid, I understand that accidents happen. I also understand that having basic rules to keep order is important when dealing with large groups of kids.
But when you’re talking about the context of an elementary school where kids are inside for nearly 7 hours a day, to have a NO RUNNING rule on the playground seems ludicrous. Kids need time to run, not just for their physical development but also to settle their bodies so they can think better during class. Kids also need time to run and play and develop their own games, free of adult direction. If recess isn’t for playing on the playground and running around, what is it for?
On the way home from the playground that day, The Stowaway and I talked about her problem solving and how her body works. She was filled with a sense of pride that she was able to ‘play like the big kids’. I assured her that trying her hardest is always the best course of action.
I continue to work at my own kids’ school to advocate for free play recess. To let the kids do their own thing for 30 minutes has value, and I will work hard to protect that for them.
Do your kids get recess or other free play time in their school day? What’s the norm in your area?