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JK and Jackson Students Eagerly Participate in Global Day of Play

     So many games; so little time.

     That may have been the most pressing problem at John Kennedy Intermediate and Jackson Primary Schools, as they once again participated in the annual Global School Play Day on February 5. Even the “rules” for Play Day are uncomplicated: batteries and electricity are discouraged, no electronics, and no structured adults-in-charge competitions. As can be seen in the photos here as well as the larger collection of photos on our Facebook page, teachers and students brought out their best for the event – a wide variety of toys and games and creative ideas that sparked imagination and laughter.

     But there is more. Just as structured learning has its place, so too does unstructured learning. The benefits of play have been widely studied and documented. For example, when the activities of free play are broken down, researchers see children discovering concepts and developing skills as well as confidence in areas such as creativity, language, science, mathematics, problem solving, sharing, cooperation, leadership, listening, tolerance, persistence, ordering, logic, strength, coordination, communication… to name a few.

     (For more information about the power of play and ideas for encouraging play, see this article on why play matters.)

    On the other hand, research shows that a deficit in play can have negative effects. That, in fact, is how and why Global School Play Day was initiated in 2015 by a group of educators who were inspired by the work of Dr. Peter Gray, a psychology professor and researcher at Boston College. Dr. Gray had noticed that even very young children had an increasing number of “to-do” items on their daily schedule and a subsequent shrinking of time in which they were free to just play. Often with good intentions, playtime was being crowded out by technology, scheduled activities, and homework. That decline in unencumbered free play, he saw, was detrimental to their social, emotional, and intellectual growth.

    “I’ve helped to document the decline of play over the years and the sad consequences this has had for children’s development,” Dr. Gray asserted. Some of the more dire results he linked to the lack of play were an increase in childhood depression, stress-related issues, and the highest suicide rates in history.

     While the prognosis was alarming, the antidote was simple, according to Dr. Gray and others who had observed the effects of decreased playtime: bring back unstructured and no-batteries-required playtime.

     It’s advice worth following.

Girl, dressed as princess, rolls friend who is in the middle of a large padded tube   4 boys gathered around a Monopoly board game