Let Them Play!

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With increased focus on high academic standards, something important is being squeezed out of children's schedules. Something their parents enjoyed in abundance, something that can help shape a child's future as much as a math or reading class.

That "something" is time for play.

Parents are demanding better academics in the classroom, and in the rush to meet those demands, schools confuse strengthening their curriculum or raising standards with the need to add more class time or homework. As a result, play time is sacrificed, often with parents as unwitting accomplices.

Children won't develop into mature and successful young adults on books alone. There are actually many benefits to "playtime," that provide children with much needed life skills that they can't always get from inside the classroom walls.

When they are playing, kids learn how to make trade-offs. To play a game with his or her friends, a child needs to play by the rules. Every child on the playground knows that a game can only get so rough and tumble before someone objects and the game becomes no fun.

So, what should parents do to ensure that play remains a part of childhood?

Make sure there are at least two substantive recess periods where children can get out of the classroom. If not, find out from the principal why, and point out the benefits.

When homework is out of the way each day, make sure your child has a chance to engage in a play activity he or she likes, whether it's a sport, a play date, a music lesson or an arts project.

Play time is not to be confused with downtime. Occasional movies and TV shows are certainly appropriate in moderation. And thanks to new technology, there are plenty of educational apps and programs available on your iPad or laptop. But make sure to encourage active playtime for your child, that doesn't involve a keyboard or a screen.

Just as importantly, however, parents should evaluate whether they are pushing their child into one activity after another with no down-time, particularly during the summer months. While summer camps can be enriching and relaxing, pressure to "perform" should be avoided.

So our advice: let them play!

Trust us, they won't object.

The Center for Education Reform (CER) has recently partnered with Noodle to bring users even more data on K-12 institutions and make this information easily accessible to parents. CER was founded in 1993 to help bridge the gap between policy and practice, and restore excellence to education. Based in Washington D.C., the Center is the leading advocate for sustainable and structural changes in education.

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