Play is a child’s natural mode of expression. Think back to when you were a child- how did you play? Perhaps there was a creek in your backyard or you built a fort with kids in your neighborhood? For me, play meant dressing up my dog and cat and in the summer catching lightening bugs. I asked a high school student once, “when was the last time you played?” She looked at me like I had three heads. “What do you mean ‘play’ she asked? She then went on to respond that she “plays” with her phone and “plays” sports.
When I think of play, I think of unstructured time and yet I wonder where does that actually exist for students nowadays? Students’ days are highly structured from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. Their days are spent at school, in clubs, at sports, perhaps lessons or tutoring, homework, on social media, worrying about school/friends, etc. I know of educators who actually have played a student for a day meaning that they’ve woken up, done the commute, run through a whole day of classes, then gone to sports practice before coming home to piles of homework. Those educators that “played” students for a day said it was one of the most exhausting experiences they’ve ever been through.
I came across an article about one school in Minnesota that is doing something really neat. LEAP is an hour during the school day when students choose how to spend their time. Perhaps take a nap, lift weights, or play drums; either way Centennial High School in Circle Pines, MN is giving students a chance to have unstructured time OR if they want more structure, then they get to create it for themselves. Read more here: https://www.kare11.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/kare-11-sunrise/big-kid-recess-reduces-stress-at-centennial-hs/89-434278170