I still remember recess in elementary school. ‘Break’ as we used to call it. The fantastic games we played like ‘gagga-ball’, sliding on cardboard box cutouts down the field, marbles, red-rover, tag, not to mention all the sports we enjoyed. Regardless of skill level, we all played together, laughed together, argued together and forged beautiful memories together.
Maria Montessori so eloquently described “Play as The Work of the Child”. Say it again. Think hard about what she means. Whether you ascribe to the Montessori philosophy or not, it’s impossible to argue that our children have enough playtime.
Let’s be clear, I’m not referring to video games or television. Do you remember the smell of the outdoors, or even using your imagination indoors on a rainy day?
That’s the kind of play I’m speaking about. The type that leads to:
(1) physically, healthy children;
(2) encourages social behavior and cooperation;
(3) teaches spatial perception and cognitive awareness;
(4) and most importantly – it’s the place where creativity and imagination is expressed and cultivated.
Recently, I spoke with some parents who agreed that our kids do not have this wonderful experience. Our kids have so little recess that we weren’t surprised about how many were bouncing off the walls during class. (We’ll leave the debate about all the sugar they eat for another day…)
What really struck me as cruel and unusual punishment was the following: a ten-year-old has a twenty-minute lunch break followed by a fifteen-minute recess, and no more, throughout a nearly seven-hour school day!
The culprit? The never-ending standardized tests. It has created an environment where teachers are expected to shove the material down the kid’s throats. As much as possible, and as quickly as possible. Just make sure they crush that multiple choice test and the administrators will be happy. This neglects the long-term consequences it has on our children. It quite literally saps all the joy out of learning. What type of a society have we created around this most precious of all assets – our children’s education? There is no doubt in my mind that taking a leaf out of Finland’s book is a great place to start making a change!
Why is Finland flying away from the rest of the world when it comes to education?
We summarized a few reasons for you that we totally agreed with:
(1) Focus on learning and working rather than marking and evaluating;
(2) Only one standardized test that comes at the end of high school;
(3) Very little homework- average is less than an hour a day;
(4) The average Finnish student has 75 minutes of play compared to 27 minutes in the US;
(5) Teachers in Finland are held in the highest regard with fierce competition to become a teacher.
When we create our books at MakeThinkers, we constantly think about the notion of “play”. We adhere to what Albert Einstein said: “The desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of a vague play with basic ideas. This combinatory or associative play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
In other words, creative and critical thinking work best together when done through play. That’s exactly what we believe and how we help your children grow.
Never, ever forget to have fun!