Children are designed, by nature, to spend huge amounts of time playing freely. That’s how they develop social, emotional, and physical skills, and it’s how they become creators and innovators. It’s how they learn to take charge of their own lives.
Today’s children have less opportunity to play than their parents had and far less opportunity than their grandparents had, and we are seeing the consequences. Rates of childhood anxiety, depression, and suicide are at all-time highs; creativity is declining, and so is empathy. As I have argued elsewhere (e.g. here, here, here, and here), there is strong reason to attribute these sad effects to the loss of play. School is part of the problem. With every passing decade, school and homework have occupied increasingly large portions of children’s lives. And school itself, with its focus on high-stakes testing and its sacrificing of recess, has become a less playful place. This is happening not just in the United States, but throughout the world. It is time for reckoning.
The Bedley brothers (Tim and Scott), who are both teachers in California, have started a movement, and it seems to be taking off. They have declared Feb. 4, 2015, to be the first annual Global School Play Day. Already, just a few days after its announcement, well over a hundred schools are signed on. Spread the word. Let’s increase the number of participating schools by a factor of 10, or 100, or more. Let’s get the word out so every school in the world has to make a choice: Do they support play or not? Send this blog post and/or the link to the Global School Play Day website to everyone you know who is in any way involved with school grades preK through 6.
Global School Play Day is more than just a day of play. It’s a day of acknowledgment that play matters, that kids need play, that our society has gone amok with testing and drilling and making kids sit in seats and has forgotten what childhood is all about. This is for affirming the child’s right and need to play. It is a day for parents, educators, playground directors, city planners—for everyone—to think about what they can do to make free play once again a major part of childhood.
Take a look at the website. Listen to the official Play Day Song (at the website). Announce it on your Facebook pages. Tweet it. Do everything you can to spread the word. Wouldn’t it be great if every school everywhere signed on?