Members of local parent-teacher associations (PTA) are often on the front lines of the recess debate. We realize that parents can be some of the best advocates for play in schools. Playworld Systems recently exhibited at the National PTA Convention and Expo in Austin, Texas, to help empower parents with the information and tools needed to revive outdoor free play at their children’s schools. This type of play thrives on creativity and is less structured than organized sports or physical education class.
As the research manager for Playworld Systems, I had the opportunity to talk with many PTA members at the show. The majority expressed deep support for keeping (or reinstating) recess in schools. All strongly agreed that recess should be a child-directed (free play) activity with school staff intervention minimized. One member referred to recess as an important “brain break.” Yet we know that children don’t stop learning on the playground, they are just learning different things. They are learning social skills, self-regulation and how to be creative.
As you might expect, safety and risk were also important topics of discussion among PTA members. Liability is an ongoing issue and can be a deterrent for school officials since they may be on the witness stand if a personal injury case is brought. The parents I spoke to were adamant that recess is necessary and a chance to set up their child for learning. Allowing children to engage in risk play helps them learn how to manage risks and difficult situations – a vital part of growing up.
PTA members are an important catalyst in reinvigorating outdoor free play. When parents believe in the importance of play then children reap the benefits. Are you a member of your local PTA? What are you doing in your school to encourage more outdoor free play?