The way in which school children play at recess and lunch time has changed significantly over the years. Some of those changes are in the interest of common sense. Others have come about because of concerns that accidents at school might result in costly medical and litigation outlays.

Unduly rough play is discouraged when children are playing ball games, chasing games, and similar energy releasing activities. Climbing trees is out and there are rules about genteel behaviour when children are using playground equipment. Duty teachers are on hand to remind children of these and other rules.

School playgrounds have to conform to Occupational Health and Safety codes. Some playground equipment has been outlawed, including popular roller slides which were all the rage in the 1980’s and 1990’s. These have been replaced by standard plastic slides which have far less excitement and appeal to children. There are many other construction requirements which add costs for schools wanting to develop playground stations.
A Real Need

Students need the opportunity to run around, let off steam and return to class reinvigorated, refreshed and ready for learning. However, if they find school yards too uninviting and games allowed too restrictive, they may choose sedentary playtime activities. The school library with its computers may offer new appeal. Or children may choose to sit, talk, play with hand-held toys or build their card sets rather than being physically active. Rather than returning to class in a re-energised way, they may feel let down and switched-off when confronting the afternoon’s class program.

There are some opportunities for children to join in weekend sporting activities, but many have little chance for physical play when away from school. Rather than being outside playing, they are inside with X-Boxes and computer games.

Outdoor play is necessary to help children build stamina and endurance. Being outdoors and playing in the fresh air has to be part of building healthy minds in healthy bodies. Many children live in apartments and have little outdoor opportunity. Others are domiciled in our newer suburbs with large houses and small often unenclosed yards. There are parks but these are often sun drenched. Parents also have security worries about children playing in these public parks independently and without supervision.

We are confronting a situation in which play and games opportunities for children are often too scarce. A lifestyle altogether too sedentary is emerging This is an area of childhood development and opportunity that needs correction.

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