Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything
that isn’t music. ~William Stafford
New backpacks are ready to go — filled to the the rim with pencils, paper, and folders adorned with puppies, Hello Kitty, or the latest teen idol. It’s back to school time here in the US, and kids are resuming their breakneck schedules. Commuting, long days in the classroom, adult-led after-school activities, and an ever-increasing homework load. Many of them have lost recess, or in the process of doing so. Simply put, they must be exhausted.
I don’t know about you, but if I had a typical American kid’s schedule, I would revolt. Or act out in class or at home, be depressed or anxious…oh, wait….that is exactly what we are seeing happen in today’s society. And it’s not just the kids that are struggling, it’s the parents and educators, too.
So, I am asking all the adults in children’s worlds to take a pledge this school year. It doesn’t matter if you are a parent, educator, after-school provider, or simply a caring adult: this school year, take a stand for childhood.
As a parent: Sign your child up for fewer after-school activities. Make sure they have ample free time to play and spend time outdoors. Talk to your child’s teacher and/or the administrator about the homework policy. If you haven’t read The Case Against Homework, please do. If there is no recess in your child’s school, fight for it to be reinstated.
As an educator: Make room for play and creativity in the classroom. Work with a team to create a school garden/outdoor classroom, and make learning come alive! Appreciate different learning styles and work with students to better meet their needs. Establish a realistic homework policy that allows students and families to have time to spend together, and gives kids ample time to relax and play so they will be ready for learning the next day.
As an after-school provider: Make sure to give kids time to blow-off steam and have fun when they walk through the door, instead of launching into homework time or a structured activity. Let them have choices and direct their own play, versus always scheduling every minute. Provide ample time for outdoor play.
As a caring adult: No kids, no problem. If you are a blogger, write a post about the need for kids to play and spend time in nature. If you are an aunt/uncle or grandparent, offer to take the kids hiking, camping, or to go shoot hoops. Consider talking to the parents about the benefits of play. Keep up-to-date on education reform issues. Concerned citizen? Assess the parks and green spaces in your neighborhood. Are there ample places to play in your community? If not, speak out!
There is something we can each do this school year to make a better version of childhood a reality. I love the quote at the top of this post. Let’s keep the kids dancing as long as we can. They have a whole lifetime to be grown-ups. Let’s not require it of them too soon.
Here are a few additional resources you might find helpful when speaking or writing about the need for play and time outdoors:
- Alliance for Childhood’s Play Fact Sheet
- NEEF’s Children’s Health & Nature Fact Sheet
- The Serious Need for Play (Scientific American)
- play by Dr. Stuart Brown
- The Hurried Child by David Elkind
Please join me. Stand up!
See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru