Balancing School and Play

Balancing School and Play
As we are heading into another school year I know many parents will be paying close attention to their child’s academic progress, keenly interested in how they are mastering the concepts of reading, writing and math. It might be easy to overlook the necessity of play and how it contributes to our child’s education. Play contributes to very important aspects of learning such as language skills, math skills and creative problem solving. In fact it is the balance between structured learning and free play that allow a child’s whole brain to be engaged daily to maximize learning potential.
In Kindergarten children are given daily opportunity within the classroom to engage in free play activities, intermittent with their experience of learning academic skills. But by the time they reach grade one and two the time for play is being restricted to short break times and the focus shifts to academics. My daughter commented during the second week of Grade 2 how much she missed being in Grade 1. When I asked why Grade 1 seemed so much better she said ‘because there is just no time in Grade 2 to play.’
Now that children are in the process of adjusting to the routines and expectations of going back to school the free play of summer is quickly becoming a distant memory. What happens then to daily play time? Recess and lunch time does offer some opportunity for movement and free play but the time is short. Physical Education class again offers the benefits of movement however the experience for children is still that of a structure activity with adult imposed expectations and rules. For play to offer its full set of benefits to children it must truly be playful!
As parents we need to commit to making time this year to for our children to just play outside of school hours. No schedules, no teaching, no expectations or pressures, just time to play. This is one of the most effective ways we can support our children’s education and ensure that their whole brain is engaged in the process of learning.

Going into the winter season, it may become a bit harder to get kids outside and playing freely so help them out a bit and give them some inspiration that will keep them busy and use their creativity.  Why not create a mud pie play kitchen outdoors, send them off on a bug hunt, set up after school outdoor play dates, get the kids involved in outdoor chores, enjoy your dining time al fresco, even go as far as bringing their indoor toys out and see what happens.  Break the rules, let them get dirty and have fun!  Their growing brains need it.


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