NPR reports on the commercialization of children’s play which has shifted in the second half of the twentieth century from an emphasis on activities towards and emphasis on specific toys and rules.
“(in the first half of the century) [Children] improvised their own play; they regulated their play; they made up their own rules…but in the second half of the 20th century…play changed radically. instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts…a trend whih begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.”
The damage is that researches have seen a decrease in children’s self regulation, an ability to “control their emotions, and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.”
“Today’s 5-year-olds [are] acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago.”
I’ve written previously about allowing children to play whenever possible, even integrating that into your Independent Work Time and existing curriculum. For teachers of the Open Court Reading Program, I beg you to please implement independent work time and to allow that to be a time when students make some of their own choices and begin to self-regulate their own behavior. It’s a little more chaotic at first but by investing time in training you reap dividends later. By moving students from center to center based on a rotation, you further take away from students opportunities to make decisions about their own learning.
We all want students to be responsible but do we give them chances to learn responsibilty? Do we give them changes to exhibit creativity and problem-solving in our classrooms?