What a difference!
Last term we changed our recess time from 15 to 30 minutes and added extra free play time in class. It made such a difference in my class!
Several studies discuss the impact of play and outdoor activities on brain development, social skills, learning and academic achievement and I cannot agree more with their results. The simple conclusion: Play is more important than classroom time.
In my opinion this applies to preschool and kindergarten classes in particular.
15 minutes of play…
My children find it very … very… very difficult to sit in carpet time and to focus on presented activities (especially when it comes to their ABCs and numbers), some of them have been diagnosed with ADHD, some of them have learning difficulties with very short attention spans…and some have just too much energy to spend. Sometimes it feels like herding a cute group of kittens…
When we came from our 15 minutes play-time it was challenging to settle them back into structured learning by sitting still at the table or on the carpet, by being quiet and attentive. They were all over the place, swapping seats, jumping up, making noises, vocalizing and talking and wouldn’t respond to given instructions without being firm. Activities were interrupted by constant reminders and instructions (“sit”, “cross your legs”, “looking”, “come back”)… not so much fun.
And suddenly they are super attentive…
After changing play to 30 minutes it all changed: Suddenly my kids are sitting, listening and following – they are actually attentive and taking in all the things I say and demonstrate; they join in by making comments and doing actions.
To me the difference is: 15 minutes play are just enough to warm up – my kids were fully engaged in running, chasing, climbing, playing and laughing. Although I gave them a “cool down time” by providing drinks and an easy carpet time afterwards, they couldn’t wind down easily.
However, after 30 minutes of play, they are a little tired …not tired-tired, not exhausted, but they’ve spent all their overwhelming energy and are now able to sit, listen and focus without feeling the need to jump up now and then. Actually they are looking forward to going into class now and come to line-up without any individual call, whereas before I had to interrupt their play and get almost every single child individually.
I totally agree with Sergio Pellis:
It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis says. So play, he adds, is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.Read more: NPR