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More Schools Ban Games at Recess

WWW- Some traditional childhood games are disappearing from school playgrounds because educators say they’re dangerous.

Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., banned tag at recess this year. Others, including a suburban Charleston, S.C., school, dumped contact sports such as soccer and touch football.

In other cities, including Wichita; San Jose, Calif.; Beaverton, Ore.; and Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., schools took similar actions earlier.

The bans were passed in the name of safety, but some children’s health advocates say limiting exercise and free play can inhibit a child’s development.

Groups such as the National School Boards Association don’t keep statistics on school games.

But several experts, including Donna Thompson of the National Program for Playground Safety, verify the trend. Dodge ball has been out at some schools for years, but banning games such as tag and soccer is a newer development.

“It’s happening more,” Thompson says. Educators worry about “kids running into one another” and getting hurt, she says.

In January, Freedom Elementary School in Cheyenne prohibited tag at recess because it “progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching,” Principal Cindy Farwell says.

Contact sports were banned from recess at Charles Pinckney Elementary early this year, says Charleston County schools spokeswoman Mary Girault, because children suffered broken arms and dislocated fingers playing touch football and soccer.

Some schools that ban games at recess allow children to play them in gym class under supervision.

Critics of the bans say playing freely helps kids learn to negotiate rules and resolve disputes.

“They learn to change and to problem-solve,” says Rhonda Clements, an education professor at Manhattanville College.

Joe Frost, emeritus professor of early childhood education at the University of Texas-Austin, sees playground restrictions as harmful.

“You’re taking away the physical development of the children,” he says. “Having time for play is essential for children to keep their weight under control.”

 

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