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Sep
04
2014

I think most schools are back in session now (man, what took some of you so long?).

Now I want you to look at the weekly schedule you’ve set up for your kids and yourself (you’re probably the chauffeur right?) and ask, have I scheduled time for my kids to just play?

Not play organized sports or play the piano or play for 4 minutes before 3 hours of dance. I mean, just creative, wild, energetic, zip down the slide, jump from the monkey bars, dig in the dirt, build things from sticks free play.

Schedule it. (I know. I’m bossy today.) And there’s a really good reason for it. Because research is showing us that time on the playground is essential for brain development. Which is why I joined Playworld Systems (a US manufacturer of  playground equipment) to save play

There is science behind this. And because I’ve always dreamed of being an 8th grade science teacher (well, that or an Olympic ice skater), I’ll explain.

According to a recent piece on NPR, research shows that play actually changes the connections of neurons in the front of the brain and these changes play an important role in a child’s ability to interact with people in positive ways, problem solve and even get better grades.

“In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child’s social skills in third grade.” And that’s not all. “Countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less,” said Sergio Pellis, a Canadian researcher. 

Which means 15 minutes of recess (the norm is some American schools) doesn’t really cut it.

Now there are some really cool playgrounds out there. Look at this one in Berkeley (of course) where kids can hammer, paint, saw and be free.

berkeley-adventure-playground-073_19916293_slide-58a590b4fac078dd1e142d83a78a915a2229383a-s40-c85

Courtesy: David Gilkey/NPR

You can seek out great playgrounds just about anywhere –  a place where kids can have unstructured fun, letting their imaginations and creativity run free.

The wonderful thing about free play is that it is actually free. Unlike those classes where your kids learn how to act out Shakespearian plays backwards in the language of Quechua.

And free is awesome for your budget.

Now I know you like that child brain development thing and that no money thing sounds fabulous too but at this point, you might be jealous. Hey, why should my little Sally get all the fun and I’m still just the chauffeur around here?!

Turns out play is important for adults too.

It helps keep our minds sharp, connected in the world, bonded to our loved ones and well, happy.  So go outside. Do something just for you, whatever sounds fun. I mean, don’t rob banks. That will get you thrown in jail, which is totally the opposite of fun.

But go out and play.

You can even swing from the monkey bars to show your kids how it’s done.

This post is sponsored by Playworld Systems. All ideas are my own. You can read my first piece on the importance of play here. I mention Tab and Fresca so it’s obviously worth reading. 


9 Responses to it’s time to let your kid jump from the monkey bars (there is science behind this!)

  • Tara says:

    I’m such a HUGE believer in this!!! I used to be a 5th grade teacher (stopped teaching 16 years ago)…BUT, even when recess wasn’t “in our schedule”, I took those kids outside and had them play. I would even play WITH them to get the kids who would just sit around and talk to play. This is so important! I don’t understand why schools aren’t allowing recess….maybe the administrators need to play to realize how much more work can be accomplished when they’re allowed to breathe in some fresh air and relax for a bit!

  • bee says:

    Kids do need to play and feel so much better when they do! My 5th grader came home and said, “I’m 10! I don’t understand why they want to teach us about sex (part of the healthy living class) instead of letting us play on playground!”
    Ironically, there is a big block of time in class for healthy living, but 20 minutes for lunch/recess. A longer lunch/recess would let them practice healthy living (not the sex part, which a completely different story!)

  • Princess Judy says:

    I’m totally pro-play but holy cow, now that I’m old those swings give me motion sickness and if I get down on the floor I’m never getting back up. I work at a college. We need recess here too!

  • hokgardner says:

    And this is why, despite my horror so dirt, I let my kids play in the sand piles that dot the empty lots in our neighborhood. They dig and build forts and play king of the mountain for hours – hours that they aren’t bugging me for snacks.

  • colt13 says:

    Saw? I assume there is an age limit for that one, but I support the idea of unscheduled play. I have been fortunate enough to watch the games kids make up with some free time as a former school bus driver.

  • Misty says:

    My youngest is 15. I feel like I should ask “Have I scheduled time for her to whine, complain, yell at me and complain about how much her life sucks.” as this seems to be what took the place of “playing.” fun, right?


kelcey kintner


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