When I was little, I spent a lot of time playing. A LOT. My parents were very fond of saying, “Go play outside.” And, happy as a clam, out I went to play with the neighbor kids, search for bugs under rocks, or collect pinecones and pretend they were ingredients in some magical stew. I realize that the “go play outside” mentality is different today. For example, there’s a third grader who lives next door to me, and I rarely see her playing outside. I blame increased academic pressures and the myth that the world is more dangerous today. In fact, crime rates are low. We just perceive that they’re high because of the impact of social media. Check it out here and here.
The lack of “go play outside” in children’s lives, particularly in early childhood, has resulted in some unfortunate side effects, according to some studies. Some teachers are seeing more issues crop up with lack of impulse control, poor coordination, lack of social skills, and even increases in anxiety and depression. These are all the things little ones are working on when they go outside, explore, and take part in pretend play with other children.
But I have hope! I have a Facebook friend with two kids and, in almost every picture, his children are outside and spectacularly dirty. I’ve seen them wading in a pond, standing in mud puddles, and climbing trees with bare feet. It does my heart good to see them.
Do you notice any negative side effects in your students caused by lack of play?