Recreation – more than just play!

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Over-scheduling, over-supervision, lack of appropriate play environments, and too many entertainment screens lead to children having less access to play time and play spaces than children in the past.

Access to outdoor play spaces may be compromised by the safety of neighbourhoods, schools and a decrease in parks and open spaces in urban areas. Children who are unable or less interested in playing outside tend to spend more time on screen-based activities such as watching TV or playing video games. Excessive screen time has a huge negative impact on mental and physical health and academic achievement.

We want children to participate in recreation but we need to make areas safe and protected. We also need to increase children’s appetite for activity.

“When I was a child we just ran around in the park, made our own games and did not require fancy equipment, technology or playgrounds,” says almost every grandparent we know!

A bridge needs to be created that makes recreation natural and safe but it also needs to be enticing for children of this new generation.

“We don’t want to put flashing lights and Disney-style equipment in playgrounds but we need to create spaces that naturally meet recreational needs of children,” says GSE CEO Greg Parry.

The benefits of recreation, play and sport are already very clear :

  • Improved Academic Achievement
    Countless research has proven that daily physical activities directly influences academic performance.
  • Improved Social Skills
    All of these natural group dynamics facilitate bonding, friendships and connections between school mates so that children can become more sociable and outgoing, confident and successful.
  • Reduced Risk of Negative Influences
    Children who play sport and recreation learn to set goals, make strategies, plan and contribute to success later in life, in the workplace and other community settings.
  • Improved Self Esteem and Confidence
    Children who engage in friendly competition with school friends have a much easier time maintaining a healthy body image and weight.
  • Improved Health Inactive children most often become inactive adults because the behaviours become entrenched lifestyle traits.

Twenty-eight percent of schools with children in the highest poverty levels have no recess at all. This impacts a population of children who already have limited opportunities for creative experiences and social play, especially since research that has shown that physical education periods and recess enhance a child’s readiness for academic pursuits during the school day. They suggest that the elimination of these pace-changing opportunities may in fact be counterproductive for academic success.

We need to guide and direct children with purposeful activities. Sport, Dance, The Arts and Drama are all quite structured and very important for human development but we also need to create spaces that engage and encourage activity. Children will be active when the spaces are safe, fun and encouraging. They need to be stimulated by the environment but not so directed that they are not using their own imagination.

CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry