American schools have a "sad" lack of play, according to new research published in the American Journal of Play.
The work done by Olga Jarrett, a professor emeritus at Georgia State University, stresses that recess should be mandated and is a right of all children.
The American Journal of Play, published by the Strong Museum, is the first interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the research of play. Its editor, Jeremy Saucier, said advocating for play is important because most school systems today don’t value play.
"Olga shows us that schools are really under pressure to increase test scores, which are sometimes tied to teachers’ salaries,” Saucier said. “So you can understand that in that sort of prep-and-test mode, play is often taking a back seat."
Saucier said rethinking what the classroom is might help validate play and make it mandatory. He said more than just physical activity happens when kids are on the playground.
“They’re also learning social skills, like how to organize. How to lead and follow directions,” he said. “They are learning how to decide what’s fair, what’s not fair. And they’re learning how to resolve a conflict. And they’re doing that on the playground."
In her paper, Jarrett urges that pushing for bills at the state and national levels to require recess would have the most lasting impact. She said children were more on task and less fidgety if they had a mid-morning break, and noted that this lack of play is more of a problem in high-poverty areas.