Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't Deny Kids Rights to Play: Recess is a Privilege all Kids Deserve

My sister-in-law works for an organization Right to Play which is an international non-profit that brings educational play to children most at risk as a way to save lives and support social-emotional growth.  Play has been strongly linked to developing children's social skills, attention, and mood.

So this week when I found out my son was in trouble at school, which in turn resulted in his "right to play"  detention in the principal's office until the end of the school year, I was upset to hear his "right to play" was given as the punishment.  You bet I am going to advocate for his "right to play".  

As a momma-bear of three kiddos the importance of exercise and mental health is what wakes me up at 6 am to practice yoga and 7 am on the weekends to shakey-shakey for Zumba. And like other moms around the world waking up at 8am on Saturday is now common practice if you are going to make a 9 am baseball game. The right to play is very important to adults and children regardless of where you live or what you do professionally everyone needs to play.

You bet I am going to advocate for his "right to play".  

In previous posts I have discussed the importance of movement especially with boys whose brains are wired differently than girls and they need to physically move and be actively involved. On top of my son's week at school in which he was denied the right to play (your probably wondering why) this is also state testing week.  State testing for fourth graders is long and labor intensive.  It requires kids to sit at a computer for an extended period of time and answer questions that require higher-order thinking (some might disagree with this statement).  There is also a significant amount of research that links students academic performance to physical activity.  That's right if you want to boost brain power you need to let kids run and play.  

What's worse is I did not find this out from his teacher who called me on Monday to remind me his book project is due, but from my son who spent the week in the office.  I asked if everything was okay because he appeared sluggish and depressed by the end of the week.  His right to play was denied.  

Can we just get on one page when it comes to recess, kids need the right to play.  And when it comes to classroom management, if you are going to give a consequence then the consequence should match the incident.  Let the kids own what they did and take responsibility for their actions in a way that is positive and supports their growth.  

When things happen we need to take it as an opportunity to grow and develop and this is especially important for children who are learning to navigate their way in this world and in schools that are driven by testing and state standards.  

And if your son's mother just happens to be a teacher educator don't be surprise if you get called out for denying a basic right even prisoners get everyday. 

That's all folks! If you want to write a comment I will respond.  Don't forget to join the digital discussion on my facebook page.  


  1. I completely with your decision to advocate for your son to have the "right to play". This should not even be a phrase. As an education system we have to come up with a different kind of consequence for students. Children need to run outside and get their energy out so when they come back into the classroom they can remain focused. It has been raining a lot up in northern California so my students have been forced to have indoor recess. Even though they are playing inside, I can tell a complete difference in my students ability to stay focused. They want to be outside and they have even expressed this to me. What are some peoples ideas on age appropriate strategies for students in kindergarten that does not require taking away recess? I would love to hear from you.

  2. Every child deserves the "right to play." Taking away play time, in my opinion, should not be an option as a consequence for a classroom behavior incident. Play is an important part of learning and development. Children need time outside of the classroom to run around and be "free" of academics to get refreshed and come back in ready to learn. While playing, children develop creativity, use their imaginations and develop physical strength. They learn to share, take turns and interact in the in environment in which they live. They can interact with children who are in different classrooms. Play time allows children to be free and explore their world while clearing their minds to focus on the academics.

  3. Have you tried GoNoodle it gets kids up and moving with video based kinesthetic activities. Also consider movement in you instruction from math relay races where kids walk quickly to board for problem solving to counting with jumping jacks

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  6. Dr. Dickenson I agree with your post 100%. Just reading what your son went through made me cringe. I have friends that will call me or text me as I am a educator asking me if a school is allowed to discipline their child by taking away their recess. I tell them it is up to the school. I was taught when you take their outside time away, and you are taking away the process of the brain waking up to work. You are also isolating them and opening the doors for other children to tease and bully them because they do not know something or are titled as the "bad" kid in the classroom. As educators, you sometimes don't know the reason for their actions but right away want to discipline other than working with a child.
    I went to a training where the presenter told us if you want a child to listen, you need to get them moving before an activity. It can be going outside or doing a movement activity inside the classroom like a dance or stretching. That stuck to me, and before we do our small group, we do some movements, and before storytime, they go outside to play, and when they come back inside, they are tired and relaxing as they listen to the story.

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