If you thought childhood was easy, you might want to think again. Recent research shows that children as young as five (in kindergarten) are spending more time in teacher-led academic learning than they are in play-based learning.
That’s right. Our children aren’t spending very much time in play. In fact, researcher Christopher Brown, as reported in Business Insider, has found that in some classrooms there is barely 15 minutes of play each day.
What Has Changed?
There is an awful lot of focus on teaching young children math and literacy. This, in turn, has spawned near-endless administrative tasks, because how do you know children are getting better at these things if you don’t test them and measure them?
The knock on impact of this is simple. Kids end up spending their days listening to their teachers drone on or taking assessments. There’s no room for play.
It’s not just Christopher Brown that’s seen this in action; other researchers from other institutions who’ve seen this include Daphna Bassok, Anna Rorem, and Scott Latham. In fact, the overwhelming body of research in this area of education concludes that play has been disappearing.
Why Play Needs To Come Back
Play is not a waste of a child’s time. Research shows that children who engage in play thrive academically, socially and emotionally. More importantly, children who play are simply better able to concentrate in class.
Conversely, children who find themselves in environments which emphasize rules and high levels of teacher-led learning often lose their willingness to take an academic risk and end up with diminishing levels of curiosity.
Sure, these kids may be able to do math and read English earlier than ever before, but the price for that comes at the expense of their ability to think.
That’s a tradeoff that may really hurt America in the long run. A creative economy demands people who think outside of the box more than it demands those who can follow rules.
What Needs To Be Done
Christopher Brown says that in order for play to return to our children’s lives, we need to recognize its importance. Then the school system, as well as individual schools, need to revisit the dramatic changes made to the way children are taught and seek a more balanced approach.
He is not advocating that academic curricula are abandoned completely – just that play is given the importance it deserves.
Families need to do their bit in all of this, too. They must advocate for their children’s right to play.
Our children go to school to develop into fully-rounded human beings. Denying them the opportunity to play denies them the development that they need.