A Nation of Weenies Starts with No Play at Recess

A Nation of Weenies Starts with No Play at Recess

Bullies beware… 

Just about every adult in America remembers recess but a growing number of children do not. I remember my recess run-in with Carlos in the 8th grade and I see a the scar every day in the mirror. He was a tough guy on the schoolyard and me not so much. We argued over Ana the dark haired beauty we both has a crush on. He got in the first punch and split my top lip against my teeth. Blood was seemingly everywhere and I fought back. Not sure who won or lost but it didn’t matter when the teacher intervened. Yes, we both got in trouble at school and home. We became school friends. For the record, I got the girl.

A school in Auckland, New Zealand ditched the rules (video) and is losing the bullies.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Here in the United States a Long Island school did the opposite and banned all games during recess. Many of the parents believe it was done to prevent a lawsuit.

Obesity rates are epidemic in American children. Instead of natural play, many want to ban it then substitute with structured programs that reinforce exercise like the NFL Play 60 and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaigns. I’m all for these programs as part of the solution, not a substitution for natural play. Kids with involved parents don’t need corporate entities or government telling them how to play. 

Studies show kids who play hard and take risks turn out less dependent as adults. Play matters throughout our entire lifetime. Think about your bruises and maybe fractured or broken bones. Aren’t some of them fond memories? Mine are. Play as children helps establish and comprehend hierarchy, a natural part of development and lifelong existence. The king or queen of the hill is not necessarily a bully. We should always fight against real bullying, but enough of the kids in a bubble wrap world. 

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