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American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids: try these games!

Even as some parents and schools try to schedule as many academics and extracurriculars into their children’s lives as possible, at times to the detriment of even the briefest school recess, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a policy statement that recognizes the value of recess to every aspect of children’s lives. The AAP wrote:

Recess during school offers children cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits they don’t get through academics alone.

According to the AAP:

  • Recess is “a necessary break in the day” and “should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”
  • Recess offers important breaks from concentrated classroom work, which allow children to be “more attentive and more productive in the classroom.”
  • Recess “promotes social and emotional learning and development” through “peer interactions in which they practice and role play essential social skills.” Children learn negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving, as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control.
  • Recess offers benefits that are “unique from, and a complement to, physical education — not a substitute for it.”
  • Recess can help offset risks to childhood obesity.

The AAP also noted that some schools cite safety issues as a barrier to recess and free play and offers steps to protect children while offering free and unstructured  play.

The AAP statement provides a large boost to those who have been advocating for recess and free play, in the face of calls for more academic and scheduled time for children. Last year, an important study published by the AAP revealed that pre-school children are far too sedentary for their physical and psychological health. The recent policy statement notes that “even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home.”

Read the complete AAP Policy Statement on The Crucial Role of Recess in School.

Many of us grew up with free play and recess games, some of which were made up on the spot, and some of which we learned from others. Here are a few games that kids (and even parents and teachers) may not know, which can add to recess and other fun and play. Many more playground and other game instructions can be found in my book, Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Playground Games

These fun, easy games require little or no equipment and have been creating memories for generations.

Duck, Duck, Goose

South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.

Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. It walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each person on the head and saying, for each tap, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then that person is It again. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose becomes the new “it”.

Red Light, Green Light

Another game played around the world, Red Light, Green Light has many charming variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum! (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)

One player is chosen to be the stoplight. That person turns his or her back to the group, which forms a line approximately 30–90′  away (depending on the ages of players). The stoplight calls out, “Green light!” and the players advance toward the player who is the stoplight as quickly as they can. When the stoplight wishes, he or she calls out, “Red light!” while turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “red light” has to go back to the starting line. “Green lights” and “red lights” are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the stoplight, then the stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new stoplight.

Four Square

Not sure what to do with that four-square court painted on your school playground? This classic game couldn’t be easier or more inclusive. If you don’t have a four-square court, you can easily draw your own with chalk.

You’ll need:

A standard-size rubber playground ball
A court, or chalk to draw one

If there isn’t a court, draw a large square, approximately 16′ × 16′. Divide that into four squares, each 8′ × 8′. Letter the squares clockwise, from A to D. The player in the A square begins by bouncing the ball once in his or her own square, then hitting it underhand so it bounces into the D square. The receiving player then hits the ball into another square, with play continuing until the ball bounces more than once or goes out of bounds. When that happens, the player who didn’t hit the ball in time, or hit it out of bounds, moves to the D square, and the other players move up in the alphabet. If there are more than four players, a waiting player in line replaces the one who would have moved into the D square, and that player goes to the back of the line. Play continues without anyone having to permanently leave the game.

Blob Tag

There are so many fun tag games, you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Try this fun variation:

Once a player is tagged by the person who is It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which, when the blob reaches four people, two split off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”

Jump-Rope Games

Jumping rope has gone in and out of fashion since ancient Egypt, when both men and women jumped over vines. It wasn’t until the 20th century that jumpers incorporated singsong games and rhymes. Many of these are passed down through the generations like oral history, with different regions using different chants. I learned many of these from my mom and passed them down to my daughter.

You’ll need:

One regular jump rope for one person, or a longer jump rope for two turners to turn while a jumper (or more) jumps.

The jumper jumps over the rope each time it hits the ground. Jumpers can jump in one jump each turn or take one big jump followed by one smaller jump each turn. A turn ends when the jumper fails to jump over the turning rope. The following are classic, easy jump-rope games. They don’t have tunes so much as chants, so they are especially easy to pick up.

A, My Name Is Alice

This is a fun add-on game that also calls for a little creativity and is different every time.

The first jumper starts with the letter A and fills in the blanks in the following sentence, however he or she chooses:

A my name is ____ and my husband’s name is ____ and we live in ____ and we sell ____.

For example: A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al and we live in Albuquerque and we sell apples.

If the jumper hasn’t tripped up, he or she moves on to the letter B: B my name is Betty and my husband’s name is Bob and we live in Boise and we sell beans.

Jumpers move through the alphabet as long as their turns last. New jumpers usually start with A, which makes it easy to compare how far each jumper gets, and choose new names.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

This jump-rope game is a little more advanced, as it requires players to pantomime the activity they are singing about (to the best of their abilities) as they jump.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, tie your shoe.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!

Apples, Peaches, Pears, and Plums

Apples, peaches, pears, and plums.
Tell me when your birthday comes.
January, February, March…

Count one month for each turn of the rope successfully jumped.

I hope you all take the AAP recommendations to heart and enjoy recess and play!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Let the Children Play

For more information see:

Resources about Play and Slowing
News about Play and Slowing

You might also like:

How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let Them Play
Slow News: Let the Kids Play
Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast?
Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Babies Learn By Playing
New Childrens Book Reminds Us to Play

 

Seeing at Child-Scale Helps us Slow Down, Appreciate More, and Play

What does it mean to be a child in a city, or anywhere? How does a child see things? Quite differently from adults, as it happens. This perspective might help many of us to slow down, appreciate more, and be more playful, as we orient to a child’s experience of scale.

The Hand-Made Play Collaborative in Tokyo (one of the busiest cities in the world) investigated how children enjoy and learn from non-commercial play, by telling  “one story of the everyday treasures of a rainy day walk“.

This is their map of a child’s experience of a city.

Children experience a great deal from the time within the pauses of activity, the research tells us. They like routine –  a small ritual within a routine walk can have great meaning. They learn by experiencing and experimenting, by noticing similarities and differences and moving things around. Adults tend to hurry kids, to grow impatient with their observations and not honor the way they experience time.

The main message from Hand-Made Play:

Slow Down. Stop and listen.

It can be a challenge to get out of our adult mindsets and concerns to do this. The rewards, however, are rich for both children and adults. Paying attention to child-scale could impact our actions and even our city planning. As usual, it is beneficial to try to see through the eyes of a child.

Images: Hand-Made Play

Thank you, Kerala Taylor of Kaboom, who first wrote about Hand-Made Play.

Slow News: Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum

As many of you know, I’ve been riding the hobby horse of free play for some time on this blog, as have many other delightful and like-minded colleagues.

Now the New York Times has chimed in:  The culture of play is vanishing, Hilary Stout writes. It’s an all-too-familiar tale — children’s face-time with electronic screens is growing, their outdoor world and their freedom within it are shrinking. Organized activities have replaced imaginary and child-directed ones. Fear of litigation and/or academic fallout have caused some schools to do away with recess. Some parents hover; some are too busy; some don’t like the mess ..

It has all added up to a culture in which free play is not valued or experienced. The New York Times tells us that the tide may be turning. They cite many groups that are working toward enhanced free play, such as Kaboom and Play for Tomorrow, which created a “play day” in New York’s Central Park last fall, with more than 50,000 attendees!

People, clearly, yearn to play.

The folks at the Rhode Island Children’s Museum would concur. Their Play Power program largely came about because they noticed that children were starting to be conditioned to want to be told the “right way” to play. And parents seemed to be oriented to outcomes, rather than the process of playing.

From the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, comes this resource about the benefits of free play.

Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe, has a lot to say about children’s need for play, including:

A good toy, a toy that nurtures creative play is ninety percent child and only ten percent toy.

From Education.com comes a really good piece about the importance of free play, how it may have been lost and how to get it back.

Last April, I wrote about the trend toward toys that fostered children’s imaginations and led to open-ended play, and included the wonderful story of the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, CA, which built a whole Box City when they realized that kids were happier playing with empty boxes than with some of their installations.

Since then, I came across another delightful tale of box play.

Other great resources and people fostering the free play movement include The Alliance for Childhood, The National Institute for Play, Playborhood, and The Children & Nature Network, among others. (There are more on the Slow Family Resource Page.)

Want to explore more? The U.S. Play Coalition is holding a Conference on the Value of Play, Feb 6-9 at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

Whatever you do, keep playing! And fostering a love of play in your kids.

Related Posts on Slow Family: Babies Learn by Playing

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy

First came word from Lenore Skenazy, the wonderful keeper-of-the-calm-flame over at Free Range Kids, that the era of the passive toy was over. It seems she had done a sweep of the recent Toy Fair, where next Christmas’ gewgaws were revealed to the trade, and found, to her delight, that largely gone were loud, electronic, performing toys like Tickle Me Elmo, and in their place were toys that called on children’s imaginations to build with them and do things with them. Imagine that!

Then I ran across this story that should be required reading for anyone who is in any way feeling inferior or stressed out because their children do not have the latest wonderful toy that will help them get into a good college, or at least goose their fine-motor development:

When the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, CA, found itself with empty exhibit space between shows, clever exhibit designer Ronnie Bogle tossed a few giant boxes, which had contained the museum’s new recycling bins, into the area. Almost immediately, children were crawling in and around them, drawing on them, role-playing in them, and creating skyscrapers, houses and forts. New boxes were added and the exhibit was christened Box City. It became one of the most popular exhibits in the museum.

You can read the complete story of Box City here.

Said Ronnie Bogle, “One of my fondest childhood memories is when we got a new refrigerator and my dad gave me the box. For two weeks that thing went from being a house to a rocket ship to a train to a car.”

This is another nice reminiscence about playing with refrigerator boxes, from the GagaSisterhood site, which is geared to grandparents.

Children’s Museum marketing manager Autumn Gutierrez echoed the idea that children can have fun without fancy toys.

“The kids really love our high-tech exhibits,” she said. “But then the window washer comes along, and they are just as excited by that.”

Worth remembering!

Photo: Melissa Gutierrez

Related posts:

Gopnick: Babies Learn by Playing

Time Magazine: Can These Parents be Saved?

Alison Gopnik: Babies Learn by Playing

annaplay1

I was thrilled to read Berkeley professor and author Alison Gopnick’s recent New York Times piece about the way babies learn by playing. Indeed, they seem to have all the materials they need naturally — no special equipment or flash cards required. Children as young as eight months old exhibit curiosity about their world and a willingness to experiment to determine cause-and-effect. And very young children actually experiment more when presented with unknowns, rather than predetermined outcomes.

Babies naturally imagine and explore as a way of learning. This doesn’t look like the way adults and older children learn — It looks a lot like play. And it’s often best done with the simplest, everyday objects, as well as with us, Gopnick writes. She concludes her New York Times piece:

“Babies can learn a great deal just by exploring the ways bowls fit together or by imitating a parent talking on the phone. (Imagine how much money we can save on “enriching” toys and DVDs!)

There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play.”

Dr. Alison Gopnick’s new book is called The Philosophical Baby; What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life. You can read about it and her other work and writings on her web site.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

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