American Academy of Pediatrics: Children Need More Time to Play

According to a new report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and reported in its journal, “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” The report, “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds,” reminds us “that the most valuable and useful character traits that will prepare children for success come not from extracurricular or academic commitments, but from a firm grounding in parental love, role modeling and guidance.”

Here are some excerpts, but it’s worth reading the entire report:

Currently, many schoolchildren are given less free time and fewer physical outlets at school as many school districts responded to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by reducing time committed to recess, the creative arts, and even physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics. This change may have implications on children’s ability to store new information, as children’s cognitive capacity is enhanced by a clear-cut and significant change in activity. A change in academic instruction or class topic does not offer this clear-cut change in cognitive effort and certainly does not offer a physical release. Even a formal structured physical education class may not offer the same benefit as free-play recess. Reduced time for physical activity may be contributing to the discordant academic abilities between boys and girls, as schools that promote sedentary styles of learning become a more difficult environment for boys to navigate successfully.

In response to the increasingly rigorous college admissions process, many secondary schools are judged by the rates in which their students are accepted by the most prestigious centers of higher learning. Partly in response to this, many students have been encouraged to carry increasingly rigorous academic schedules, including multiple advanced placement courses. In addition, many students are taking prep courses for standardized entrance examinations. These students are left with less free time because of the home preparatory time needed for their classes.

There is a national trend to focus on the academic fundamentals of reading and arithmetic. This trend, spearheaded by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, is a reaction to the unacceptable educational performance of America’s children in some educational settings. One of the practical effects of the trend is decreased time left during the school day for other academic subjects, as well as recess, creative arts, and physical education. This trend may have implications for the social and emotional development of children and adolescents. In addition, many after-school child care programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity.

20 thoughts on “American Academy of Pediatrics: Children Need More Time to Play

  1. Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf schools, told teachers “you can give them homework, but it won’t do any good”. – it is not a learning experience.


    Waldorf is the most successful teaching system in existance! No text books, no homework.


  2. i can remember when my kids had tons of homework when they were in public school. i had a hard time getting them to do it all, i know i should not of but i did some for them when it came to reading the novels in gr.6 and then answered the questions. i could not believe all the homework they got. then those backpacks that were filled with books i could not even carry them on my back they were so heavy. you wonder why kids now a days have poor backs. i think it is great just having so much homework that the child can handle. when my kids were in gr 1 and 2 they had at least 2 hours a night. i would help them do it and 10 min into it they got bored and wanted to go out and play, yet they passed their grades with no problem. when they got to high school it got even worse. next thing you know they both quit school in gr. 10 although they both have good jobs today to me as long as they have their math and english is really good. no matter what job you have to do now a days you need math and english and computer skills. I do agree that kids are getting far too much homework in the public schools.


  3. I wonder as I write whether you will have the courage to publish an alternative, not opposing, opinion. After thirty-four years of teaching in Canada, I have just returned from service in the United States. I lived through the Hall-Dennis report in Canada; I lived through the anti-phonics and whole language approaches. From each of these periods of revolution in our history, I learned specific truths about how children learn which I incorporated in later instruction. Phonics without the meaning of whole text, for example, is truthfully meaningless to most students and therefore of little value. Play as an approach to learning on the other hand was a somewhat misguided notion: it has been replaced by differentiated learning. In the US kindergarten students are expected to read pre-primer material by the end of their kindergarten year. I taught Hispanic students in kindergarten three years in the US: they had little or no English on arrival and left reading, writing short paragraphs fully confident in their ability to express themselves in a classroom setting. Their homework? A book to share with their parents nightly. How bad can it be to sit with your child and share literature nightly? American parents embrace the idea. What in the name of goodness is the matter with us Canadians? I don’t for a moment suggest we adopt American ideas. Our education system has a different evolutionary history. We need to define exactly what it is about play that energizes active learning. Before we return to the days before accountability in education we need to ask what is good about homework and exactly what responsitilities does the parent own in their child’s education? Before we throw homework out as we have done with all of our previous innovation, let us examine in an unbiased forum, what indeed about it has value. I hate to say this, but in spite of your efforts to the contrary, the spokesperson on TV,CP24, exhibited all the characteristics of biased and irresponsible parenting. I sometimes despair that Canadians are anti intellectual and I fear for our future!


  4. “Fred Simon says:

    Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf schools, told teachers “you can give them homework, but it won’t do any good”. – it is not a learning experience.”

    Fred, Where does Steiner say that? Would appreciate the source. Thanks


  5. Soz, i dont want this to be public at all.
    Well any way i have been to six schools and five of the schools were public and the other was private, and i moved to a steiner school after trying out all those schools. I have to say i absolutely love it. there isnt as much stress and every one is so nice and kind that i just absolutley love it.
    i would like to tell you that in upper school you do get homework even in a steiner school, why is this? the teachers still give it to us and i dont know why. they always had an excuse. So did they give it to us just because they felt like it or what?
    Anyway the school is still very interesting and fun, compared to any other. but in one of the schools i went to they had a no homework policy,(it didnt really work) Why, i use to always think. Also soz i think alot any way why didnt and still hasnt i think the steiner schools done that?


  6. I agree that some teachers give out too much homework, but I do not think it needs to be taken out completely. I believe that most work should be able to be completed in the alloted class time. Students in my class have learned that if they work really hard in class, they will be doing themselves a favour by having less homework at the end of the day. If students waste class time, then they have to make up for it with extra time dedicated to homework.


  7. i really agree with this, me being a 14 year old girl doing soccer every night, I really think an act against homework would really do the job.


  8. some teachers give to much homework, i personlty think that there should be at least a study hall period once a day, for at least half and hour.


  9. so, again I pose the questions:
    How do we protect and encourage and enrich those who do not have an environment to play in? How do we help those who have an unsafe neighbor focus on positive rather than negative? I agree that an appropriate amount of homework is just that, appropriate. Before the notion to throw it out altogether gets serious review, think about the positives that come from appropriate reinforcement.


  10. homework should never ever be given to kids or teens it takes up their time for fun and for sports and church stuff like or family!!


  11. Okay, is it just me, or are a lot of these comments incredibly incoherent? If you can’t make a point, you aren’t helping your cause, people. And if you can’t write complete sentences, you definitely aren’t helping you “less is more” approach to education (which I agree with, by the way). Please proofread your comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: