Something’s wrong with play

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Now that it’s warming up slightly, the elementary school teachers and day care centre staff will be grateful for the chance to send the children back outdoors to expel some of that pent-up energy.

Even when they’re home, parents can send them outside to play – or does that happen any more?

Current ad campaigns are encouraging “60 minutes of play” for children. It’s sad to think that ad campaigns are now required to encourage children to go out and play.

Granted many of our children live in urban environments with limited outdoor space, but there are parks and recreational areas where playing can happen. Perhaps there are too many indoor activities occupying their time.

Physical activity among children these days seems to be the structured variety. Their wintertime play is in organized sports such as hockey or figure skating.

Just think what these kids are missing – unbridled play involving a game you make up as you go along; a game of hockey with no equipment and where disputes are settled among yourselves not by referees; a match with no over-enthused parents yelling instructions from the sidelines and no pressure to perform for judges or to get those points to keep you on top of the scoring race.

The lack of this type of free play is getting the attention of our politicians.

Last week, the provincial government launched an Active Start program to provide “the foundation necessary to foster a lifelong enjoyment of physical activity in our Island children.”

Enjoying physical activity should be a given when you’re a child. Send children outside with a couple of other children of similar age and enjoyment and physical activity should happen naturally.

It sounds ridiculous that, first of all, a program is needed to get children outside playing, and second, that it includes an instruction manual and lesson plans as well as training and equipment “to teach core Fundamental Movement Skills in a fun, play environment.”

It’s a clear sign that we’re becoming too regimented when we need instruction manuals, lesson plans and training to teach children to play. If we have to teach kids to play, that’s a poignant statement about our society.

If we’re outside being active, playing and having fun, the children will be quick to follow suit. If they’re sent outside to find their own fun, they’ll find it.

Teaching kids “core fundamental movements” in a structured “play environment”, sounds like sucking all the fun out of play.


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Recent comments

  • Chris Meuse
    February 04, 2013 - 14:46

    Dear Editor, The January 29th editorial “Something Wrong with Play” correctly identifies that lack of opportunity for unstructured play as an important concern facing children today. However, it unfairly points to the province’s “Active Start” program as a poor solution in helping children develop the skills needed to be physically active. Indeed, programs such as Active Start teach children the building blocks to be active for life. Just as pleasure reading is strengthened through language instruction in schools, children and youth become physically literate when they learn the fundamental movements that compose a game of tag or soccer. For instance, if a child does not develop the fundamental skill of dribbling a ball, they are going to have a more difficult time developing the skills needed to participate in a game of soccer, and this is going to dampen their enthusiasm to play. Children who do not develop their fundamental movement skills early often have poor skill development later, and we know this can prevent further participation in a variety of activities. Though the “Active Start” program may sound like a regimented program of skills and drills it is actually one where children explore and discover movement in a child-centered environment. As a primary school physical education teacher, I can assure your readers that the teaching of ”FUN”damental movement skills actually helps to increase participation in a variety of activities. I have had the privilege of guiding children in the development of these fundamental movement skills through exciting games, activities, challenges and dance. I have witnessed children take these fundamental skills and consolidate them into their own inventive games, not only in the gym, but also on the playground during recess. I champion the efforts of the Departments of Health and Wellness and Education and Early Childhood Development or any other organization for that matter that advocates and/or supports programming that will help to address the inactivity crisis in our youth. As ParticipACTION urges, it is time to bring back play. We do this by teaching children the building blocks of physical activity early, and by fostering confidence, competence, and creativity so that they may be active throughout their lives. Chris Meuse Board of Director Representative for PEI, Physical & Health Education Canada

  • Jakolin
    January 30, 2013 - 12:37

    I remember, not too long ago either I might add, when the kids weren't allowed to sit at the table with the adults when they were having adult conversations, we were sent outside rain or shine. I loved it, we have so many great memories of the forts we made and games we created, heck I think we invented karaoke! It is such a shame that our children are not as ambitious to get outside, I realize its my fault too. Now a days, we are so precautious about pedophiles, accidents, and god forbid drugs getting around our children, that sending them out to play with other children their age isn't always thought of as a safe idea. We have made our children this way either by being scared of something/someone or by giving them everything we didn't have as children, what we don't realize is that we are also not giving them what we did have as kids, imagination and freedom to make choices. Right or Wrong.