Writing. Reading. Math. Science. These are all basics of mainstream education. Then there’s art, music, drama, and dance, all or which are important but somehow less so than the former in our modern-day curriculum.
Amidst all this education, traditionally schooled children are given several breaks throughout the day to enjoy a snack, give their growing brains a chance to rest and recharge, and most importantly, play.
But in the land of homeschooling, amidst the abundance of skill-enhancing projects, educational art, and brain-building games, self-directed free play (no monitoring or results required) can become an overlooked necessity.
Of course, projects can be fun. Helping prepare the day’s lunch or working in the garden can be equally as enjoyable. Art especially, complete with finger paints and bright colors, can seem like play. However, as long as there’s a result to be had, a structure to follow, a schedule to abide by, and/or a parent’s direction and input to obey, it’s not really free play.
People who are comfortable in their bodies find almost everything easier,” Newman said. “The way a child becomes comfortable in his body is by moving. If you put a 3-year-old down in a classroom and have him practice reading and writing until he’s 5, as opposed to another child running around playing and rolling down hills, by second grade, the second one will be much farther along in reading and writing.
Catherine Ramstetter, co-auther of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement written in defense of recess, agrees.
Ramstetter and other experts on childhood development hope schools and parents will … realize that play breaks can actually improve children’s academic performance. Even if the school doesn’t have playground equipment, Ramstetter said, there are other ways to provide children with unstructured play time, in a gymnasium or auditorium, or a local park.
According to Ramstetter’s study, frequest rest breaks are common in other countries.
In Japan, for example, Ramstetter said, students have a 10-minute break after 50 minutes of instruction, to allow them to regroup.
This is an excellent guideline for parents homeschooling their children! After 50 minutes of instruction, or any type of cognitive challenge, get movin! Need some ideas? Here’s a few from Growing an In-Sync Child:
Jump, slide, or gallop to get their coats from their cubbies.
Scoot on their bottoms or wriggle on their tummies to join circle time.
Creep on hands and knees during clean-up time.
These large locomotor activities strengthen muscle tone and prepare
Go barefoot to feel differences between sand, grass, and blacktop.
Step in puddles.
Make mudpies and snowballs.
Jump in leaf piles and snow mounds.
Whatever it is, make sure to get your kid(s) moving and playing in an unstructured, truly free, way throughout the day. And if you’d like to share with your kids the importance of physical activity, here’s a fun little video you can watch together.