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Get ready, set, play é


When kids were asked what their favorite subject was, the answer, without hesitation, used to be, “Recess!”

How many kids today would say, “Recess? What’s that?”

Recess is free time for kids to play at school but, for many schools, recess is a thing of the past. Free time outside of the school day is just as limited. Whereas it used to be common for parents to tell their kids, “Go out and play,” now they are just as likely to say, “Go watch TV.” It’s easier, for what little free time they have, as most children are kept too busy with regimented activities and organized sports. Every minute is filled, allowing little or no time for unstructured play or creative thinking.

With the rate of obesity, however, experts are taking another look at free play, and many schools are again implementing outdoor play. What happens when schools begin incorporating recess into the daily curriculum? Many find playgrounds that have been concreted over or spaces completely rundown and unsuitable for playing. Playground equipment likely is long gone.

In Chicago, where recess is being reintroduced, playground “coaches” are being employed to assist children with games and free play. Just how “free” play will be under the supervision of a playground coach is not known, but at least it is a beginning.

Children need time to let off steam, use creative ideas, and learn to get along. Yes, bullies exist, but they have always been around. Left to their own initiatives, kids used to be able to fend for themselves. It’s sad, but today’s bullies are too violent. It is a sign of the times, to be sure.

Many kids would not know what to do without someone instructing them: “OK, kids! Everyone line up. Now, get ready. Run and have fun! é” How many children will know how to have fun without an electronic gadget in front of them or in their hands?

They must be taught how to play tag or dodge ball, games long banned because they are not politically correct and too rough. You know, you can’t take a chance on having skinned knees or, heaven forbid, bloody noses from being hit by a ball!

Children are treated as fragile little beings who must be protected from all things rough. Offensive speech and boisterous play not only have been discouraged, but in most cases, forbidden. Kids are kept in their own little protective bubbles of sorts. No sharp objects or sharp words allowed.

Is this protecting children, or isolating them from reality? Is it helping or hurting? It appears that it would be hurting. Witness the epidemic of obesity and diabetes and the rate of really dangerous bullying.

We know from past experience that skinned knees and bloody noses never caused permanent damage. Perhaps if children were allowed free time, under supervision for safety (but not necessarily coaching), they would self-police and gang up against the big bullies.

é Just sayin’.

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