We all know how much better we feel when we have been for a walk in the sunshine, or sit outside with our coffee for a bit of fresh air. The air clears the head. The walk gets our heart pumping and endorphins flowing. It is so much easier to throw ourselves back into work afterwards. It is no different for kids. For most students, running off excess energy is really important. It means that when they get back into the structured routine of the classroom they are more likely to be able to focus on the task at hand. It is universally accepted by teachers that outside play improves concentration, behaviour and grades. It has been suggested that there is a really important “R” along with reading, writing, arithmetic and that is *recess*. There is a good reason why those most famous wigglers sing “dance the gloomies away!” For exercise and play is not only helpful getting the wriggles out and settling a child but the fresh air and exercise is as good for their emotional state as it is for ours. There are many different ways children play in the playground. There is social play where the interaction between two or more children is paramount to the activity. This is mainly conversational based. There is constructive play such as in a sandpit with buckets and spades. Games with rules such as tip, physical play such as soccer and dramatic play such as spies, shopping or mummies and daddies. Play helps children learn about themselves and negotiate with others. Any activity with equipment such as a ball helps to develop their gross motor skills. It should also be fun and flow on effects can boost self confidence and increase happiness. Some children will be the leader, other followers, some will put forward their ideas, others won’t. These skills are important to the development of a child’s understanding of the world around them. The playground is usually not a ‘controlled’ environment in schools. They are supervised but not structured. This is really important for a child’s social development.
Some children struggle in the playground and this is where modelling is really important. Teach your child how to play handball, hopscotch, tip, hide and seek and stuck in the mud. Model dramatic play at home! Set the scene of a pirate ship and a treasure island in the backyard or a magical garden so that these themes may carry over to their school play time. Children love play based on movies or books. Encourage this. Have fun with it :) Encourage your children to be active both at home and at school. In a world where childhood obesity is on the rise, being active is going to make a positive impact on their lives in more ways than one. This piece was originally written for Kidspot in 2011 as part of their Buddies Bright ideas series, sponsored by Kelloggs.