Why Play Matters!

Living next to a school can sometimes be a frustrating experience with the hustle and bustle at the beginning and end of the school day as well as the frenzied noise that emits from the playground during the various recesses through the day!  Certainly near my sons’ school the neighbours seem to complain frequently about the stresses of living near a school and in particular the problems during break times when the boys are dashing about and especially when balls accidently get kicked over the school perimeter fences and onto the pavements outside their houses or drift onto their land.  The recess experience for these neighbours, whilst understandably irritating for them, leads them to confiscate balls and yell obscenities at the children purely from a standpoint of their own frustration.  Yet in essence playtimes, recess or breaks, as they are known around the world, are an important intrinsic platform of child development as much as what goes on within the classroom as well.

In recent years there has been a lot of research into just how important this is.  Nowadays more than any other time the traditional three “R’s” of learning are being challenged to include the fourth “recess” due to not only the overwhelming evidence that shows just how critical regular breaks are, but more so the plethora of opportunity that these breaks provide.


Free “play” or time to mix in a less structured way during the school day during breaks provides grounding in many skills that build up socialization skills for children:

  • Social skills of mixing with peer groups, younger and older children
  • Work out the pack mentality
  • Teamwork Skills
  • Co-operation
  • Negotiation
  • Compromise
  • Encourages close relationships
  • Decreases bullying if children are not bored


Time to play, let off steam and to structure a small proportion of the day also helps furnish children with internal mechanisms:

  • Self-regulation
  • Helps with positive self-expression
  • Increases independence
  • Breeds creativity


Regular breaks through the day have also been found to:

  • Improves school performance
  • Improves behaviour
  • Increases focus
  • Increases Concentration
  • Prevents mental fatigue


Clearly the chance to run around, to engage in playground games, has further reaching positive outcomes too:

  • Provides exercise helping win the battle with obesity
  • It’s good for children
  • Provides life lessons

Clearly these lists are not all inclusive, but simply looking at these statements alone shows how important free play is during the day.  Without sufficient play, it has been seen that young people can become obese, anxious and depressed.  It should therefore remain undisputed that children need their breaks, whether these are at school or at home.  Today’s children are tomorrow’s adults. As play is fundamental to a child’s learning experience simply giving children space to be children and students a break in the school day, to enjoy each other’s company and to embrace a time of free play paves positive outcomes that will ultimately serve us all in the long term.

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