21st Century Skills and Education
Play is Critical to a Great Education
As global competition increases, it is imperative that children develop a skill-set relevant to today's workforce and are able to approach challenges with creative solutions to successfully navigate our complex, ever-changing world. Critical thinking and collaboration are integral to the jobs of the future, and balanced and active play helps to develop these 21st century skills.
Elementary school principals also overwhelmingly believe recess has a positive impact — not only on the development of students' social skills, but also on achievement and learning in the classroom.
We believe play should be part of a well-rounded school day. That is, kids need to read, write, do math, as well as practice problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity.
We know play also helps children adjust to the school setting, enhances their learning readiness, and indirectly contributes to children learning more hard skills in school by mitigating behavioral problems and increasing academic engagement. Schools without recess face increased incidents of classroom behavioral problems, which detract from learning time. Studies show play also may increase children's capacity to store new information, as their cognitive capacity is enhanced when they are active.
Tony Wagner, of Harvard University, cites the combination of play, passion, and purpose, rather than the carrot-and-stick motivation of most classrooms, that best develops the discipline and perseverance required to be a successful innovator. We agree and advocate that play be woven into class instruction to engage students and help them do their best.