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Creative Development: 3 Ways to Get Kids More Play Time at School

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Play Time—Much ado is made about the dismal state of school lunches, and for good reason. Daily helpings of tater tots and frozen pizza certainly aren’t giving our children the nutrients they need.

But there is another, equally damaging threat to our children’s health that we also need to address: the lack of space and time that kids get to move and play at school. Anyone who has a child knows that children simply aren’t built to sit for prolonged periods of time. They are built to wiggle, bounce, jump, and run.

So why are schools across the country increasing desk time and decreasing play time? It’s not just a matter of physical health—the decline of play is also linked to ADHD; behavioral problems; and stunted social, cognitive, and creative development.

3 Ways to Make Sure Your Child Gets More Play Time

Are you concerned that your child’s school is all work and no play? Here are three actions you can take this fall:

Recess Campaign

Courtesy of KaBOOM!

1. Launch a recess campaign

In the midst of educational testing frenzy, recess is increasingly absent from the school day, despite the fact that recess offers nearly half (42 percent) of chances kids get to be physically active during the school year. Not only that, but recess has been proven to help children's attention, classroom behavior, and achievement test scores. Children in Finnish elementary schools—who get an average of 75 minutes of recess a day—consistently rank higher than U.S. children in International Student Assessment Scores. You can rally your school community to get recess reinstated or to incorporate more recess into the school day by starting your own “Right to Recess” Campaign.

A Play Day, or Play-a-Thon

Courtesy of KaBOOM!

2. Organize a Play-a-Thon

Can you believe that some kids have never played Red Rover or fallen down in a three-legged race? In fact, many classic outdoor games are now deemed too “dangerous” for kids on the schoolyard. In Spring 2011, the NY State Department of Health went public with a list of classic games that pose a “significant risk of injury,” including wiffleball, Red Rover, dodgeball, kickball, freeze tag, capture the flag, and tetherball. A Play-a-Thon, or Play Day, is a chance to gather your school community to build awareness for the importance of play and teach kids those old-fashioned games that we all know and love. It can also double as a fundraiser for purchasing more play equipment or upgrading your school playground.

Walking School Bus

Courtesy of MoBikeFed

3. Start a “walking school bus”

While 71 percent of adults walked or rode their bicycles to school as children, a mere 17 percent of their own children currently do so. Parents often cite safety issues as one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school, but there is always safety in numbers. A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school, or as structured as a route with meeting points, a timetable, and a regularly rotating schedule of trained volunteers.

Ready to get started? Sign this Back-to-School Pledge and get a free copy of How to Save Play at Your School, featuring these and 12 additional actions you can take this fall.

What type of playground does your child's school have? What does your school do to make sure your kids get enough play time at school?

Kerala Taylor, KaBOOM! Kerala Taylor is a proud stepmom, expecting mom, and Senior Manager of Online Content & Outreach at KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children. She is passionate about getting kids unplugged and about building community through outdoor play. You can follow KaBOOM! on Twitter: @kaboom.

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