“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”
Let me translate this wisdom for my North American audience: Bubble-wrapping our kids hurts them more than it helps.
And where’s the proof for this seemingly counter-intuitive observation? An elementary (primary) school in New Zealand where the principal agreed to remove the playground rules and discovered that there was less bullying, less destruction, less trouble than before.
A university researcher wanted to study the effects on children of removing all the anti-bullying, overly-regulated recess rules. It turned out that liberation has made the kids much happier, more creative and reduced playground injuries.
“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t,” says school principal Bruce McLachlan.
“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”
And parents were happy because lo-and-behold their kids were happier.
It is also so important to use this case as evidence of the harm done to kids (especially boys) when schools reduce recess, put kids in straight-jackets of zero-tolerance policies and even eliminate certain games and recess altogether.
As “The War on Boys” author Christina Hoff Sommers explains, “as early as pre-school and kindergarten, boys can be punished for behaving like boys. The characteristic play of young males is “rough-and-tumble” play. ”
This is exactly the type of play that has been eliminated from school playgrounds all over America. And it is exactly the type of play, along with imaginative play that girls and boys need to keep them focused when they go back into the classroom.
Research also shows that these types of child-generated games are an important part of kids’ social development.
Three cheers for the Swanson School in Aukland and here’s hoping that schools here in the US start getting the message and freeing their students to climb trees, skateboard and just have fun.
Big thanks to my husband Ben for bringing this great news story to my attention.