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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

7 Ways That Play Helps Develop Good Behavior

Photo by tanitta (Flickr)

When I was a kid, recess was a favorite part of my school day, and my girls have fun playing with friends and taking a break from schoolwork, too. However, many schools are shortening recess in favor of additional instructional time. I suggest that we follow the example of Finland schools and advocate for more daytime free play and recess. These two activities help kids in seven ways to develop and reinforce good behavior.

Boost Focus

A child's attention span is roughly one minute per year of age. Most classroom instructional time and activities last longer than a few minutes, though, which can challenge a child's ability to focus and engage in the lesson. Breaks for recess and play stimulate a child's brain and boost their ability to focus. When they return to the classroom, they are ready to listen and learn.

Stay on Task

My older daughter used to daydream her way through the school day, and her teachers had to work constantly to keep her on task. One day, we realized that she had no trouble staying on task after recess. She needed that play break to reboot her brain and body. Because of play, she was able to follow directions, transition quickly between activities, and finish tasks.

Reduce Fidgeting

One energetic student who plays with their hair, rocks in their chair, or taps a pencil against the desk can distract the entire classroom and disrupt learning. While classroom-friendly fidget toys can reduce fidgeting, play is also an important and helpful tool. As kids run, jump, and play during their recess time, they burn off excess energy and return to the classroom ready to sit mostly still and learn.

Improve Compliance

Sometimes, kids who disobey the teacher, make noise during class, or otherwise don't comply with classroom rules are not trying to be difficult on purpose. Rather, they may be filled with extra energy that exhibits itself in non-compliance. When my girls begin to show signs of defiance, I consider their free time. They may need a play break to burn off energy and improve compliance.

Relieve Stress

The demands of school and other challenges at home or with friends can create stress for our children. Recess and free play give kids an escape from the demands of daily life. On the playground, they can simply be active kids who enjoy each other and have fun without worrying about stressors.

Process Emotions

Kids don't always express their emotions in productive ways. In fact, they may act silly, create drama, start fights, cry, and otherwise display their emotions in inappropriate ways while at school. They need play and recess. As they create, imagine, and exercise, they begin to process emotions in a healthy way, which allows them to behave better in the classroom.

Improve Communication

Last year, my daughter struggled with friendship drama at school. It took several months for her to connect with other kids in her class, and part of that transition happened because of recess. During this time, my daughter and two of her classmates created healthy bonds as they played together. Play definitely can influence communication and help our kids learn to understand each other better.

We all know that recess and free play are fun and give kids numerous benefits. I particularly appreciate that these activities help kids in seven ways to develop and reinforce good behavior. Because of play, our kids can learn better in the classroom. Will you join me in advocating for more play opportunities at school and throughout the day?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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