when do we play?

March 4, 2009

In my online class about Literacy Development, we have been discussing the importance of play and the negative impact the reduction of time to play is having on our children. The conversation about the role of play at school and at home and current practices is a really important one that merits further exploration.

In schools we so often communicate with families as to how they can help their children do school better- homework, attendance, presence at school functions, volunteering. In essence, the message we are communicating is that the work kids do at school is not enough, we expect kids to do more school when they are at home. We know, though, that not all families have the academic or emotional background to make this a productive use of family time. At best it can take away from fun, at worst it can create unnecessary battles at home.

I propose we consider a new path to our desired result: Instead of promoting further school work at home, what if we were to encourage play? We know kids are not granted sufficient play time with our current academic focus in schools and this can negatively affect their cognitive and linguistic development, what if we changed our focus to promote sufficient play time at home?

We serve as the source of information about what underlies successful learning and academic achievement for kids… so when do we talk with families about the importance of talk and play between parents and kids that helps kids develop language, cognition and social skills that support their success in schools? In this current economy when so many families are struggling to keep afloat, isn’t it all the more important that we demonstrate the value of play and communication at home and at school so families can see the role they play as chief communicator and playmate with their children? If our goal is to recognize what families already do, and by saying this validating the importance of talk and play in the home, won’t that reduce some of the stress and worry that families are not doing enough? In turn, won’t that promote the interaction, conversation and time spent playing that we know will actually help kids do better in school? And for those families who are not talking and playing enough with their kids, isn’t that an easier shift than to increase homework time? Volunteer time?

I cannot help but wonder the impact it would have on kids performance in schools if, like the school whose test scores went up by including more daily recess, our kids play time, not work time, went up daily in their homes.

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