Do Kid’s Need to be Taught How to Play?

Contributed by JC Boushh

Many teachers and school administrators feel that recess has moved from being a time of free-play and games to a time of conflicts and woes. Is the answer to restoring order during recess the addition of recess coaches? Schools around the country are adding recess coaches and structures recess to their current recess time in order to eliminate many of the problems associated with recess. Jill Vialet of Playworks based in Oakland, CA states; "Schools with recess coaches ….report reclaiming instructional time that was previously lost to working out kids' problems. In addition, playing cooperatively and, in some cases, earning leadership roles as "junior coaches," builds a sense of community among students.”

But the question is do recess coaches really restore order to the playground, or is it simply that more monitors and more controls that reduce recess conflicts? Many researchers and play advocates actually feel that the loss of free-play is a contributing factor in relationship to playground conflicts. The less time children have to free-play the less time they have to interact with their peers and subsequently the less time they have practicing their social skills. Lee Igel from New York University states; "Recess coaching is well-intended. But the problems it is meant to address, he said — stopping bullying, encouraging inclusion, fostering cooperation — are too wide-ranging and have deeper causes. We've always had bullies, but it seems to be on the increase. “

Recess should not only be a place for play and games, but should be an extension of the classroom, and a place for learning and social interaction. The answer to the validity of recess coaches is too soon to validate, but we are certainly walking the line between structured-play and free-play.