Playing for Balance

Education is an important and necessary part of life. All parents want their children to attend school and learn what they need to be happy secure adults. How can children learn what is required in school and still have an opportunity at a balanced life? How can educators in school age care help children strike a balance between schoolwork and play?

In my day, outdoor play was viewed as part of our education, as play was incorporated into the school day. During a typical school day, we enjoyed two recess periods and another break to play after lunch. Often, our teacher would take our class outside to play group games like kickball, soccer, and capture the flag. My typical school day was seven hours and much of that time was spent outside.

Outside physical activity balances the school day. It provides children an opportunity to recharge, refocus, and rejuvenate their body and mind in preparation for the next learning adventure. It creates a connection to the outside world that helps all of us stay in balance. I have read about many schools that are realizing the benefits of more play and are extending recess for longer periods of time. This is a positive move in the right direction.

The road ahead leads to us, the educators who work in school age care. We have an opportunity to be a guiding light, a force for good, and the champions of play! We have many hours of time at our disposal each and every day. These hours could be used for more indoor work. We could make more handprint turkeys, do homework, and create academic based activities for children or we could materialize the benefit of educating the whole child by promoting and implementing a program that features being outside and playing first. We could be the trailblazers, programs that use valuable afterschool hours outside, in nature, tipping the scales back into the favor of balance.

When it comes to work many of us think of a different kind of balance. Work hard, play hard, is the idea of balance for many of us. Trying to live this motto is popular but is not balance. Work hard, play hard, is pulling at two extremes and leaving the middle empty. It creates tension at both ends and leaves stress and exhaustion in the wake. Balance is like a quality prepared meal, a little of this and a little of that, all mixed up with skill and delivered with the upmost of care.

There exists an opportunity for school age educators to tip the scales back into balance, to influence parents and other adults about the benefits of play, to show that play is good for learning, and creates a happier and healthier learning community. All we have to do to realize these benefits is put down our pencils and go outside a little longer each day.

How much time is devoted to recess each day at your school?

How can you as an after school educator help tip the scales back into balance?