January 15, 2015 KaBOOM!

Enhancing Education Through Play

Play is disappearing in schools. Schools are cutting back on recess and even eliminating it altogether to focus on classroom instruction. As TODAY recently reported, this is the case for about 23 elementary schools in Orange County, Florida, which has led parents to take a stand for their kids' right to play.

At KaBOOM!, we believe play should be part of a well-rounded school day. That is, kids need to read, write, do math and practice problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity—all of which are skills fostered through play and are essential outcomes promoted by Common Core standards. From helping kids adjust to the school setting to enhancing their learning readiness, behavior, and 21st century skills, play enhances a child’s education.

Studies show play may also increase children's capacity to store new information, as their cognitive capacity is enhanced when they are offered drastic changes in activity. A 2010 study published in the Journal of School Health concluded that recess "serves a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom." According to evaluation findings on Playworks from Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University, strengthening recess transforms the school environment, paving the way for more focus on learning.

Innovative communities across the country are taking steps to incorporate play citywide because they understand it is critical to a great education. Chicago is rebuilding 300 school playgrounds and, alongside additional instruction time for students, guaranteeing 45 minutes every school day for children to play before returning to the classroom ready to learn. Nashville also believes increased play can help boost youth academic achievement, health and socialization. As a result, Mayor Karl Dean has initiated joint use agreements to open school playgrounds to the public after school hours, on weekends and during the summer.

Play and learning shouldn’t be viewed as opposing principles, because in fact, play and learning go hand-in-hand. We applaud the efforts and actions taken by parents, schools and communities around the country, and encourage others to implement holistic instruction, which includes play. By equipping kids with the 21st century skills they need to thrive, we are also ensuring our nation’s future well-being and prosperity.

Do you think schools should include time for play? Let us know what you think on Twitter (twitter.com/kaboom) using the hashtag #playmatters.