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Three Cheers for Play, For Children and the Rest of Us!

Laura E. Saponara serves as a Senior Communications Consultant for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.

Many of us believe that physical activity in school is a boon to academic performance.  Yet in recent years, recess has been reduced or eliminated in thousands of school districts.

Fortunately a growing body of research is shining more and more light on the role of play in children’s social, emotional and cognitive development and, specifically, the crucial role of recess.  An article in this week by John C. Townsend of Ashoka Changemakers sums up many of the most intriguing findings and asserts that adults need to play often and well, too, if we are to dream, improvise and innovate.

The good news is that the trend to eliminate recess is being reversed, at impressive speed and with flying colors, by organizations like Playworks, which has placed full-time coaches in 500 low-income schools to build in – and actively orchestrate – play as a time when every child can get active, have fun and belong while using social and problem solving skills and learning how to reduce stress.

According to a 2013 evaluation report, the presence of Playworks coaches at schools appears to have a positive impact on school climate by increasing students’ use of encouraging language, enhancing teachers’ perceptions of student safety, deterring bullying and and easing the transition from recess to learning activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also become a vocal advocate for play, arguing that “safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it.”

As Jill Vialet, CEO of Playworks says, recesss rules.  So three cheers for play!  And for the people who are making it happen and making it a meaningful.

Read the full article on about the importance of play.

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