Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
Many of my fondest childhood memories involve running and playing outside in fine weather or doing creative projects inside. The chance to color or use blocks to build and imagine was very important to me. My early years at school, while teaching me important basic skills such as reading and math, still provided time for me to play and explore.
It’s hard to avoid news of more programs being cut from public schools. Programs like art, music, and sometimes athletics disappear most of all because they are deemed ‘less important’ or ‘unnecessary.’ While volunteering at a local elementary school I have seen some of the effects these cuts have. Kindergarteners only have gym or music once a week and get ten minutes of recess a day because there aren’t enough of these programs at the school. Many children, especially those living in an urban area don’t have the opportunity to get outside and play once they go home either. At the age of five they are expected to sit at a desk for six hours a day with little creative work to pass that time.
While academics are important for students, so are these programs. Even in my limited observations, it’s clear that many in class behavior issues stem from these young children simply having unspent energy. Longer periods of play could benefit them in the long run, allowing them to better focus when the time for desk work comes. It would also help create healthier children that are less at risk for childhood obesity; if they learn that play involves getting up from the television and are encouraged to move their bodies they can lower their risk for many health problems later on.
Besides the health benefits of more playtime, play encourages imagination. In a corporate world, ideas are currency. Allowing children to flex their mental muscle with something other than the memorizing of facts prepares them to be problem solvers. We want to create an educational environment that nurtures the different, the inventive, and the extraordinary; not a system that encourages the mediocre or the basic. The next generation of artists and philosophers are beginning their education right now and they should have room to learn through play.