Finland Makes the Case for Play

An important issue that the World Congress of Play will be confronting is the war on play that is currently being fought in our homes and schools.  Actually, it’s not a war; that would imply that people were fighting back.  It’s a rout with play being seen as wasteful in a time when the only way to get ahead in life is for children to stay chained to their desks.  If you think I am exaggerating, check in with your school system and find out how much time your children get for recess each day. 

Recess is down to 15 minutes a day in many American schools.  In fact, those of you who grew up in the 1970’s may be surprised to learn that today’s kids get 50% less free play time than you did as a child. 

That is why I strongly recommend that you read a great article in The Atlantic by Tim Walker:  “How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play.”   It seems that in Finland, children get 15 minutes of recess, not each day but every hourIs that why Finland’s educational system is considered the best in the world?

Walker writes about the work of Anthony Pellegrini—author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development.   Dr. Pellegrini, an emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, is a long time advocate for play as educationally beneficial.

According to Walker, Pellegrini’s research shows that: “In every one of the experiments, students were more attentive after a break than before a break. They also found that the children were less attentive when the timing of the break was delayed—or in other words, when the lesson dragged on.”

There was, however, something even, at least for me, more striking that the positive impact of more frequent play breaks.  It was that the research also shows that “It was not just the frequency of play but also the freedom of play” that was important. I will write about that in my next post.


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