Why young kids need less class time — and more play time — at school

From the Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss

I have published a number of pieces over the last year or so on the importance of allowing young children to play in school rather than sit for hours at a desk laboring over academic tasks. Here is a new post making the case for why less class time — and more play time — will actually lead to a better education for kids, however counter-intuitive that may sound. It was written by Debbie Rhea, an associate dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences and director of the LiiNk Project (www.liinkproject.tcu.edu. ) at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The LiiNk Project is described in the post.


By Debbie Rhea

It seems counter-intuitive to think that less classroom time and more outdoor play would lead to a better education for kids. But longer time on task doesn’t equate to better results, only greater burnout.

For years, educators have tried different unsuccessful strategies – more testing, more instruction– to reverse these trends. The answer, however, is not more class time. It’s more play.

Other countries have figured this out. In Finland, for example, students take a 15-minute break for outdoor play after every 45 minutes of classroom time. In East Asia, most primary schools give their students a 10-minute break after 40 minutes or so of instruction.

Here in the United States, however, the average first-grader spends seven hours a day at school, sometimes without any recess, much less one outdoors and unstructured.

[Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today]

Kids are built to move, and having more time for unstructured, outdoor play is essentially like a reset button. It not only helps to break up the day, but it allows kids to blow off steam and apply what is taught in the classroom to a play environment where the mind-body connection can flourish. Read more>>