Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
While this is very true, Emerson left out all of the other benefits children receive from free play, other than just the emotional stimuli!
International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Voice of Play focus largely on playground safety, but also on educating about the benefits of play and to influence change in the way most people think about play. It is not just a silly, optional activity; it is an essential tool in a child’s development.
As children head back to school to conquer this year’s challenges of writing and arithmetic, it is time to think about the benefits that they are receiving outside of the classroom – out on the playground.
Research shows that outdoor free play benefits the development of physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills. Going outside for recess, even for just 30 minutes a day, supports these different kinds of child development.
Physical – This type of development from free play is a no-brainer. Running, climbing, jumping and crawling are all ways for kids to stay healthy, fit and active. They are also refining their reflexes, motor skills, flexibility and more. Simply taking the time to play can improve heart and lung function and prevent obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Emotional – Kids are able to express themselves in numerous ways out on the playground. They are able to build confidence and self-esteem by experimenting with their skills, taking risks, using their imaginations and adapting to different environments. Research has also shown that it is a way for children to release emotions after a traumatic situation.
Social – Children need a healthy balance of spending time with parents, family members and other adults, as well as their peers. Recess allows kids to meet new friends and build relationships while learning how to communicate and cooperate with others. Expanding their social horizons on the playground leads to understanding social norms and different cultures that surround them.
Cognitive – So many parts of the playground these days are based on stimulating a child’s brain. Recess helps children develop reasoning skills, encourages autonomous thinking and problem solving as well as helps improve their ability to focus and control their behavior. Not only are kids releasing their pent-up energy from being in the classroom, but they are also putting those skills they learned to use – without even knowing it! Research has proven that children are more alert and have a greater attention span to academic tasks after enjoying some free play.
As you can see, these benefits have a huge impact on classroom behavior and personal achievement. Enjoying the unstructured time of recess is just as important as the structured time in the classroom when it comes to child development. So, the next time your child tells you his or her favorite time of the day is recess, you can feel more at ease knowing all of the skills being put to use on the playground.
According to Scholarpedia.org, “academic achievement is predicted by recess activities.”
Photo courtesy of Voice of Play.