Halt there, child! Is your game

How Over-involved Can Adults Get at Recess?

Justin Murphy at The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY reports that:

Children at Pittsford’s Jefferson Road Elementary School who come up with a fun new game for the playground will need to do a few things before recruiting their classmates to play along.

First, they should write out the name of the game, the rules of play and the mechanism for rotating other children into play if it’s in progress.

Their parents can then submit that form to the chairwoman of the school PTSA Parents on the Playground committee. The committee will review the game to ensure that it is “inclusive, age-appropriate, equipment-friendly and insurable.”

If it is, it will be added to the school’s list of approved games, accessible in PDF format online.

Yes, spunky kids are always thinking up new insurable games! “Sit and Don’t Seek.” “Room Temperature Potato.” “PTA Chairperson May I?”

Surely that’s how you spent your childhood, as well — filling out paperwork, rather than just yelling to your friends, “First base is the tree!” The form on the school’s PTSA website allows students or their parents to “attach a page if needed” to explain the game’s rules and how other kids can join in.

That way, said the website, “Parents helping on the playground will get to interact with the children in game zones and they will be the expert on the rules in their zones.”

Never mind that adults are already the experts every single second of the kids’ day EXCEPT when they finally — FINALLY — get recess.

Never mind that the whole point of play is that that’s when KIDS are in control. THEY run the show. Or used to.

Last night, after the Democrat & Chronicle article appeared, School Principal Shawn Clark clarified the PTA request:

“We always have our students’ best interest at heart and, as always, students are able to play games and participate in activities of their choice during recess,” Clark said.

 He continued, “The goal of submitting game ideas is to give our students a voice and platform to share their creativity and provide a common understanding of the rules for each/new  game. …It allows us to take a great idea and share it with all of our students.  If students decide that they want to create a different game, it is not only fine, it is encouraged.
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“We regret that the specific language of the parent letter was interpreted as restricting play; this was not our intent.”

Of course there’s nothing wrong with sharing the rules for a game. But the whole idea of play is that it is child-directed and fluid. The adults don’t need to know how the kids’ games are played because it is not up to the adults to direct the games.

The chairwoman of the playground committee, Rachel Hutchins, had written that, “Our goal is not to restrict what games can be played. Instead, we are resolving the conflicts of the past by making game rules clear to everyone. By having the rules and joining guidelines available to playground monitors, they can help children play together without having to stop the games from going on.”

But as Boston College Psychology Professor Peter Gray is always explaining: Play — free play, not PTA-surveillance play — is all about negotiation and compromise. To adults, it can sometimes look like that’s all the kids are doing: arguing. But when the game DOES stop, ahh, that is when all the real social skills training kicks in. The kids have such a huge incentive to solve the problem — they want to start playing again! — that they learn to solve their own problems. They deal. 

Isn’t that something we’d like all our kids (even our college kids) to get better at?

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Halt there, child! Is your game inclusive, age-appropriate, equipment-friendly and insurable?

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86 Responses to How Over-involved Can Adults Get at Recess?

  1. BL September 1, 2017 at 9:38 am #

    ‘ The committee will review the game to ensure that it is “inclusive, age-appropriate, equipment-friendly and insurable.”’

    And, oh yeah: don’t forget to have FUN!

    (I’d bang my head against a wall, but that’s probably not insurable …)

  2. Marie September 1, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    Lenore, I love your point that kids need to learn how to argue and settle their own conflicts.

  3. Theresa Hall September 1, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    It wouldn’t hurt to lose the oh no the kids are playing a shoot them up game. You know like cops and robbers. Cowboys and Indians. My dad played those games when he was little and kids instinctively still want to play them. If by accident someone thought they were threatened then all parties involved need to talk. I get that school shootings are bad but not many people have died from imaginary weapons.much less a toy gun.

  4. Emily September 1, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    That is just all kinds of crazy (I was going to say “all kinds of nuts,” but most schools have gone nut-free, just in case an allergic student happens to enroll). Anyway, when I was in grade one and grade two, we played a game on the big metal dome climbers (remember those?) called “Toilet Monster.” The rules were simple. One kid was the Toilet Monster, and he or she would stand on the sand underneath the climber. Everyone else would climb to the top of the climber. The Toilet Monster would call out another player’s name, and that player would jump or flip over the top bar, and land in the sand (hopefully on his or her feet, but falling didn’t really hurt, because it was sand). The Toilet Monster would then chase that player around in a circle, trying to catch him or her. If the Toilet Monster was successful, that player would become the new Toilet Monster. If not, the next round started with the same Toilet Monster. I found jumping or flipping over the top bar scary, so when I played, I was allowed to climb up the inside of the climber, hang from my hands, and jump down, so it wouldn’t be such a big jump. I don’t think the teachers understood how to play; they probably thought it was dangerous, and they probably also thought the name of the game was vulgar and disgusting–which, to us, was a feature, not a bug, because it discouraged adult meddling. But, my point is, Toilet Monster was appealing to both boys and girls, anyone could play who wanted to (I don’t ever remember anyone being excluded, anyway), and it was entirely kid-invented and kid-operated, it promoted co-operative play, and it was FUN. However, it’d probably never be “approved” through the bureaucratic process described in the article, if kids at that school came up with it today.

  5. Emily September 1, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    >>I get that school shootings are bad but not many people have died from imaginary weapons.much less a toy gun.<<

    Well, no. When a child gets shot with a toy gun, or an imaginary gun, that child dies an imaginary, pretend death. Maybe that means falling to the ground dramatically, maybe not (depending on the rules of the game or activity), but it usually means that that child is out of the game, at least until the next round starts. I don't think that that's an entirely bad thing–I'd hazard to say that it gives kids the opportunity to understand the concept of death in a safe environment, so that when it happens in real life (to a pet, or a family member or friend), kids have some idea of what "dead" means–and that no, Grandma/Fido/Bubbles the goldfish isn't coming back.

  6. SKL September 1, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    Wow, that is scary – I hope it is just a poorly written description of something totally optional.

    My kids and their friends are constantly making up new recess games. They tell me about them occasionally. Usually they are some variation / combination of timeless kid play, adapted to a current popular theme such as pokemon or Harry Potter.

    One thing I hated as a kid was being told I “had” to do anything at recess. What does anyone else care if I choose to just stand and watch or walk around the perimeter or stare at the clouds? It’s recess, not fat camp. :/ I was the kid who always got picked on in games, so no, that was not how I wanted to spend my little bit of “free time.”

  7. Julia September 1, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    It’s not quite the same thing, but this reminds me of when I was in the 3rd grade (back in the early 90s) and had a real killjoy of a teacher. We had recess out on the blacktop that year and she declared to us ( outside of school rules) that we could a) jump rope, b) play kickball, or c) play tag. The end, no exceptions. One day, we all invented a new game. One person was the ref/judge, and she assigned everyone an animal. The game was, everyone closed their eyes and made their animal sound, woof, moo, whatever. When you found someone who was making the same animal sound as you, you linked arms and went on looking. It was chaos–and it was SO FUN. The entire class was involved, which NEVER happened on a normal day. But oh no, we couldn’t have it–it wasn’t one of the three dedicated games. Our teacher punished us by making us sit out the next recess. Since the entire class was involved, we all just had to sit there on the ground beside the blacktop. Just sitting.

    I think some people will go to great lengths to make sure other people don’t have fun. If they can do it in the name of safety,well, so much the better.

  8. lollipoplover September 1, 2017 at 10:31 am #

    “The goal of submitting game ideas…”

    If you have to write this sentence, you are too far gone.

    Recess is different things to kids. Let them figure it out. Some like games, some want to sit quietly. We visited my nephew’s school and they have chess tables next to the playground! I loved the swings and climbers at recess, my kids were more four square and wall ball players. They make up all kinds of games and rules and learn to get along and NOT have to involve the adults unless there are serious problems.

  9. Theresa Hall September 1, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    I meant real death. Pretend deaths are the same as when some actor gets killed. Power rangers kill the monster. Monster goes boom ,then gets huge. Then gets killed again. No big deal especially from kids point of view. Imaginary deaths from kids point of view aren’t a big deal but adults see a shoot them up game and promptly freak out on the kids involved. Maybe instead of trying to run away from guns maybe teach gun safety. Like no putting your finger on the trigger till you’re ready and sure you want to shoot.

  10. Powers September 1, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    I wouldn’t worry too much. I suspect this is just a way to deal with groups of kids who make up exclusionary rules on the spot just to spite targeted peers. Or to deal with those kids’ parents who think their angels can do nothing wrong.

  11. Emily September 1, 2017 at 11:36 am #

    >>It’s not quite the same thing, but this reminds me of when I was in the 3rd grade (back in the early 90s) and had a real killjoy of a teacher. We had recess out on the blacktop that year and she declared to us ( outside of school rules) that we could a) jump rope, b) play kickball, or c) play tag. The end, no exceptions.<<

    Julia, did your teacher mean that you could ONLY do those things at recess, or that those were the only games you could play? What about, say, a child reading a book, or drawing in a sketchbook, or playing with a Game Boy, or just walking around, or sitting alone and thinking, at recess? What about pairs and groups of kids just talking? None of those things are "games," and they don't hurt anyone, so I can't imagine any adult punishing a child for doing them.

  12. Anna September 1, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    No wonder so many kids these days are on psych meds. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to grow up so micro-managed.

    This really underscores Peter Grey’s point that school children are treated like prisoners in super-max. Although even felons get to choose what do during the recreation periods in prison…

  13. JJ September 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    The deeper problem here is the suggestion that kids should be so closely supervised at recess it’s even possible for adults to be following the details of the games. I still have very fond memories of recess because of how free it was. The one teacher for the 60 or so of us was back by the door and not to be bothered unless someone was injured too bad to get up or a physical fight broke out. Lots of us even played *gasp* where we couldn’t even be seen! It was a huge yard. And I’m only talking 90s here, not that long ago. Micromanagement is the inevitable outcome of hovering, and even before that just being watched so closely inhibits a lot of fun, just from being in close proximity to an authority figure.

  14. Crazy Cat Lady September 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

    “Instead, we are resolving the conflicts of the past by making game rules clear to everyone.” How about the kids just talk to each other and ask what the rules are? If the kids decide the rules are not fair, they will not play. Isn’t part of school supposed to be teaching the kids about clear communication? Won’t that happen faster if they get to practice it on their own?

    Can someone PLEASE post an update every couple of months so that we can hear how this is effecting play during recess? My guess is some adults are going to try to enforce this, others will not. Fun days will be the days with the adults who do not enforce it.

  15. sam September 1, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    Does it get any more stupid than this? Yes, yes, it does. Only a program like this can make the only time children can be children more regimented and less fun.

    There is no facepalm big enough for how clueless this “program” is.

  16. James September 1, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

    Actually, this is more liberal than the school I went to. From 5th grade on, recess activities were strictly limited to kickball. We had two glorious weeks where we could use the basketball court, and once we rebelled and used the soccer goal (bear in mind, this was in our designated play area!). The first privilege was taken away for no reason any of us ever could find, and the second earned us a series of stern lectures about doing what we were told. We literally were required to play kickball for a half hour, every school day, for four years. Because anything else–even not doing anything–was dangerous, non-inclusive, etc. etc. etc.

  17. bmj2k September 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    Sounds like the only games the kids will be playing are Parliamentary Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. It’s bureaucratic fun!

  18. Peter September 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm #

    I get that school shootings are bad but not many people have died from imaginary weapons.

    I still have imaginary scars on my imaginary leg from being shot by an imaginary gun in grade school. Of course, my imaginary leg was replaced by an imaginary robotic one a few hours later, so it was pretty good in the end.

    :^D

  19. Emily September 1, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh, another thing–my mother was very much against weapons when my brother and I were kids. We weren’t allowed cap guns or Nerf guns, and instead of water guns, we played with empty spray starch bottles, or little squirters that looked like sea creatures. Anyway, when my brother was about eight or nine, he made a crossbow, from nailed-together pieces of scrap lumber, elastic bands, and broken-off garden stakes for arrows. That crossbow was pretty ugly and crude-looking, but it worked……and it probably would have been lethal, if it had actually been aimed at any person or animal. However, my brother and I had the good sense not to do that–when we were playing with the crossbow, we only ever aimed it at the ground, or at the compost heap. We wanted to make an archery target, but we never got around to that. But, the moral of this story is, little boys (and sometimes girls too) like to play with weapons. If you don’t buy them toy weapons, they’ll make their own toy weapons, or in my brother’s case, real weapons. So, given that little inevitability, compared to a homemade garden-stake crossbow, a Nerf bow and arrow sounds positively safe.

  20. Dean September 1, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    Can I see the politically correct rules for “Bovine Control Persons and Native American Indigenous Persons”?

  21. Workshop September 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    My 5 year old invents his own games. Much like “Calvinball” the rules are always added on to whatever came before. Heck, there are sometimes even made-up words. I play and can’t keep up with the rules, which my son happily informs me of when I break them.

    Apparently, none of these parents have ever had a 5-year old.

    It’s times like this that make me want to invent a hammer-gun. Because some people . . . .

  22. John B. September 1, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    “Their parents can then submit that form to the chairwoman of the school PTSA Parents on the Playground committee. The committee will review the game to ensure that it is ‘INCLUSIVE (emphasis mine), age-appropriate, equipment-friendly and insurable.’”

    Now conservatives can be bad when it comes to helicoptering kids BUT this is just plane unadulterated liberal B…S…!!

  23. Michael September 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    First, never ever allow the PTSA Parents on the Playground committee anywhere near the playground….ever. Secondly, keep the PTSA away from the school whenever students are present. Thirdly, remove the PTSA Officers, who allowed this, from any and all offices. In the future do not allow them on campus without security accompaniment. Lastly, erect signs that are clearly visible throughout the playground that state a new policy: any games played on the playground are at the sole purview of the students involved. Participation is entirely voluntary. Any interpretation of rules are to be decided by the students involved. Adult intervention is allowed only if blood is spilled.

  24. James September 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

    “But, the moral of this story is, little boys (and sometimes girls too) like to play with weapons.”

    Last winter we took our kids to a Christmas tree lighting. There was a church selling red and green foam things, about 2″ diameter and about 18″ long. Inevitably, my oldest boy (3) found another little boy with one of these, and they started sword fighting. My wife and I were quite happy with this–if nothing else, they were contained, and they were actually really polite, stopping whenever someone needed to pass. The boys were having a lot of fun! And they stayed more or less with their respective parents instead of running out to see the police horses that occasionally walked by.

    The other boy’s father was nervous, but let the game continue. The mother….she picked up her boy, did a thorough inspection to make sure he wasn’t hurt (bear in mind, they were whacking the foam things, NOT each other), the whole time saying how worried she was about him and is he okay and how mean that other little boy was to be fighting with him. You could see the joy in the other boy’s face die.

    As you said, kids play with weapons. Your only options are to role with it, or go insane, because it’s GOING to happen.

  25. Emily September 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    >>As you said, kids play with weapons. Your only options are to role with it, or go insane, because it’s GOING to happen.<<

    Now I wonder if that other little boy ended up making a homemade crossbow or similar when he was older. Also, Homemade Crossbow sounds like a great name for an edgy indie-rock band. Lol.

  26. Mya Greene September 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    “inclusive, age-appropriate, equipment-friendly and insurable.”

    How in the world is age-appropriate decided? What happens when you get a group playing together that are ( gasp ), different ages? One school I went to prided itself on classes that were strictly ability grouped, and the result of this was that some classes had upwards of a 5 year span. Not surprisingly, students socialized with whoever their classmates were. Yet, another school I attended had strict rules that you can only hang out with those in your grade, but even there, some grades had some outliers on both the younger and older sides in particular years.

  27. Julia September 1, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    Emily: nope! No standing and talking. No reading a book. No walking around bouncing a ball. You could jump rope, play kickball, or play tag. Oh, and we had to choose which thing we wanted to do at the beginning of recess and we weren’t allowed to switch. Yeah, she was swell.

  28. JJT September 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    As cliché as the expression is, honestly these parents need something better to do. This sounds all about parents trying to make themselves relevant. No kid needs parent involvement at recess!

    My coworker and I were just commiserating about our daughters (both just started high school–different high schools) and the sports parents are arranging a long list of activities throughout the fall sports season like dinners and fundraisers and parties. Shouldn’t we be past that by now? Shouldn’t the kids be doing it on their own or just skipppng this stuff and focusing on the game? Again I think parents are looking to make themselves relevant. From a working parent perspective it seems like these over-involved parents need to get a job. But in fairness, from a nonworking parent perspective it probably seems like the working parents are overinvolved because they feel guilty.

  29. JJT September 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Also, I kept reading this headline as “how can over-involved parents get recess?” Which is a funny concept.

  30. Rebel mom September 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    Things like this were why I was considered “that mom” at my kids’ school. I pushed back hard on these things and though it’s uncomfortable and the teachers make you feel like an unwelcome, ignorant, nasty intruder we all gotta do it. Don’t hand your kids over and throw up your hands in despair over dumb rules. Fight for their rights to be healthy normal kids!

  31. SanityAnyone? September 1, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    Candidate for the “UGH Of the Year Award”.

  32. Donald September 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    “We regret that the specific language of the parent letter was interpreted as restricting play; this was not our intent.”

    I see this as good news. Ok, micromanagement often goes berzerk and sometimes borderlines on S&M. However, the above indicates to me that parents are pushing back.

  33. lollipoplover September 1, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    “First, never ever allow the PTSA Parents on the Playground committee anywhere near the playground….ever”

    Never allow the commitee to form in the first place. I’d rather be on the Cottonheaded Ninnymuggins commitee.

  34. Amy September 1, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    They really need to let recess alone. Let the kids have fun and play. A friend of mine has kids in a district that stops recess after 2nd grade. I actually recess should be through 8th grade. Most of my family had it that way a loved it.

  35. Barry Lederman September 1, 2017 at 8:02 pm #

    I have a comment to post to this article, but first I need to run it by the committee

  36. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

    “The adults don’t need to know how the kids’ games are played because it is not up to the adults to direct the games.”

    Step back a meta-level. Adults (specifically, the adults placed in charge of the school) have to enforce some limits. Target shooting is a perfectly valuable skill and an element of many games (and even Olympic sports). Not many of those games belong in school. Some games, that present an actual danger, do need to be suppressed, or regulated, or conducted in a manner that protects the health and safety of the children (and the property).

    Now, it certainly is true that a good many games are possible which do not present any sort of danger to the participants, and children should be free to play those games as they choose. But adults are still in charge of those kids as they play, and their responsibility is not diminished.

    It’s so easy to take what someone has done, attach your own “spin” to it, and then go off on them for something they didn’t say, or something they didn’t intend. It sure looks like that’s what’s happening here, even AFTER the clarifying message has gone out.

    Make up the rules for your game. Make up alternative rules for existing games to adapt them to different circumstances. 20 people want to play softball? Great! Since softball teams have 10 players on them, that’s perfect. So you need to adapt if 19 people show up, or 21? Great! How will you solve this problem? Most of those are good suggestions!

    What I saw here was an attempt to encourage creativity in kids. Hey kids, do you have an idea for a new game? Great! Write them down, and we’ll publish them. Well, maybe not ALL of them. Not all ideas are great. To be good school playground games, there are some qualities a game should have. For example, compare two games. A game of tag can accommodate any number of players, from two on up to hundreds, and requires no equipment or materials other than players and open space to play in. In contrast, the game foursquare has room for, you guessed it, four players, and you need a ball, and level ground, and a clearly marked foursquare court. Going back to that first thing: If you only have 3 players, you can still play, but if you have 5, one of the “players” will have to wait to play. If you have 8 players, you can have two games running at the same time… if there are resources available for that.
    So, if your game has “players” who are idle, waiting for their turn to play, how and when will they get their chance? In baseball (except in the American League), every player gets a turn to bat, and a turn to play in the field, and the rules for when each will happen are complex but well-understood. In the foursquare example, the player who is idle is waiting (or, if there’s more than one of them, waiting in line) for a player to be out, and the rules for what makes a player “out” are complex but well-understood.
    For school playground games, we don’t really want a game where a player can be “out” for the whole recess. We do want games where players who are “out” rotate “in” on a fairly steady basis.
    We also may need to mediate how we decide which kids get to use which resources. If there’s only one basketball court on the playground, and these 12 students want to play basketball, and these 12 students want to play “H-O-R-S-E”, who gets to use the court? If we use a “first-come, first served” model, and the first kids pick a game that, intentionally or not, excludes other kids from using the field or equipment, should a mandate appear that on Mondays people who want to play basketball get first dibs on the court, and on Fridays people who want to play H-O-R-S-E get first dibs on the court, is that good because everybody gets at least a chance to play the game they wanted, or is it bad because we’re telling them what game(s) to play? (Be careful how you answer… is putting the basketball hoops at “regulation height” stifling the children’s creativity? The ones they sell for home use often allow adjusting the height. Is painting a foul line on the basketball court stifling them? Maybe they’d like their line closer, or farther away (See, for example, the different 3-point line for U.S. college, U.S. professional, and International basketball, and the opinions of the purists who say baskets are worth 2 points, regardless of where the shot came from)

    It’s a rabbit-hole.
    The key assumption here, which was expressly denied by the authorities involved, is that playing “non-approved” games is forbidden. Since children at Pittsford’s Jefferson Road Elementary School remain able to play non-approved games, despite the reporter’s initial claim otherwise, what’s the problem here? (other than sloppy reporting, that is.)

  37. Theresa Hall September 1, 2017 at 9:04 pm #

    Personally I don’t care if kids want to play with pretend weapons. As long as it can’t kill or draw blood I won’t even raise an eyebrow about it. If parents want their home to be gun free but no freaking out when kids that aren’t yours play shoot them up games. If you want to use real gun just please do so safely.

  38. James Pollock September 1, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    “Lenore, I love your point that kids need to learn how to argue and settle their own conflicts.”

    The problem being, of course, that leaving children to their own devices CAN have this effect, but does not necessarily do so. Sometimes, all the kids learn is that the kid most willing to resort to violence to get his way, gets his way. That can take a LOT of time and effort to correct in later years. Ask Donna about it.

  39. Emily September 1, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    @James–That’s actually a really good point. As for the four-square thing, yeah, I remember playing four-square at school as a kid (I wasn’t good at it, but I played from time to time). In the absence of a big red rubber ball (the preferred type of four-square ball), we’d use a basketball, or even a tennis ball. If we didn’t have any kind of ball, we’d play “corner tag” instead, where you’d have to run around the four-square court, with “it” in the middle, and the corners were safe spaces. I think you could play that with more than four players as well, and at that point, it became sort of like musical chairs without the music.

  40. lollipoplover September 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    “Jefferson Road is proud to have the Parents on the Playground program. This is a great opportunity for your child to see your smiling face in the middle of their day.”

    Sounds more like enabling helicopter parents.
    My kid doesn’t want to see me at recess.
    She wants to play with her friends.

    I can think of a thousand better things to do in the middle of the day than to be a *smiling face* on the playground(???) and preauthorizing game rules.
    Root canal, cleaning the cat litter box, expressing my dog’s anal glands, to name a few.

    They are catering to some bored housewives at the expense of allowing children to problem solve and develop valuable social skills and just PLAY like kids. Get a coffee in the middle of the day and meet with some adults. Or meet at a park for a run and have adult conversations…stop ruining recess because you have nothing better to do.

  41. Theresa Hall September 1, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

    As far I’m concerned the kids can argue till the cows come home and they don’t try pound each other let them. They either settle the argument and that will be that or they will stop talking to each other. The adults should be careful when it comes to exclusion it could be a case of we aren’t best friends and don’t really want to play together or they heard something about the kid and are being jerks about it.

  42. Andrea Drummond September 1, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    This is nuts. I would never be on that committee.

  43. Mary September 1, 2017 at 11:23 pm #

    This story was totally sensationalized and it’s a shame Lenore fell for it. Attention from a well-respected thought leader like Lenore just fuels the fire of this irresponsible reporting. I have volunteered with a different PTSA in the area and have been following this story all day. From what I have read, this program was about one area of the playground. This was in no way a school policy and certainly didn’t apply to everything happening at recess. I think you would still see lots of free totally unstructured play. If no one pariticipated, so what? When you read about the proposed program in it’s entirety it seems it was intended to encourage creativity. The statement about insurance is thanks to rules promulgated by the NYS PTSA. They are cumbersome. I think the parent chair was just being forthright that new games require review. Sadly, where I live, programs are denied by the insurance company all the time. Maybe the chair’s letter could have been worded better. The principal clarified and his statement strikes me as sincere. I see no grand conspiracy here. This story was created by the media and has been an excuse for some really ugly mom shaming on social media.

  44. Crazy Cat Lady September 2, 2017 at 12:16 am #

    Age Appropriate….that one I can agree with. When my son was in speech therapy at age 3 and 4, I took him to a school for therapy. My toddler was NOT allowed to play on the playground there, and I was informed that two blocks up, there was a playground I could take him to for entertainment during the hour of therapy a week.

    That one was at a housing development. Stating the facts, it was in a highly Hispanic area. On the underside of the slide, along with gang graffiti, was a prostitution schedule. It was written by kids…it had things like “Blow job, .05 cents.” And “Anal, $.25 cents.” That was NOT age appropriate for a playground…the next time I came I had a jumbo sized bottle of nail polish remover and a roll of paper towels to get ALL of the Sharpie off the toys. Different things reappeared but that one…not age appropriate!

    But…I doubt that most schools with a decent janitor would allow this kind of stuff on their playground.

  45. Crazy Cat Lady September 2, 2017 at 12:19 am #

    Amy, the homeschool partnership that my kids went/go to, used to be adjacent an elementary school where the kids could go use the swings. Even the high school kids LOVED using the swings or shooting a few hoops between classes. Recess should be allowed for all ages. Even adults get coffee breaks every few hours.

  46. Katie G September 2, 2017 at 6:16 am #

    Does anyone besides 35-year-old me remember the concept of “Times!” and “Un-Times”? Was that a really local thing? Kids where I grew up would shout the former to stop the game to clarify rules, take a bathroom break, tie a shoe, or any other needed reason. The latter was to start the game back up (why we didn’t say “time out” instead I don’t know. Whatever.)

  47. Amy September 2, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    Crazy cat lady, love the name! That sounds awesome. Most school don’t see the importancw of recess anymore.

  48. EB September 2, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    If there was any adult supervision of recess at all at my school in the ’50’s (and there may not have been), they were hiding, because they certainly were not apparent. That may be extreme; six-year olds playing on rough gravel at the top of a steep hill may not have been the best idea!!! The only time that games were managed by an adult was during PE class.

  49. Kirsten September 2, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    No no no no no. I would never have my kid at a school like this. No games should ever have to be written down, decided, finalized, submitted to a committee, explained to grownups or forced to meet some kind of guidelines. Kids should be left to their own thing at recess, short of physically harming each other, damaging equipment or climbing on electrical poles. Kids should be free to create their own spontaneous games and make up the rules on the spot and possibly never play that game the same way again. And all decisions should be worked out by and among the kids with no outside interference. This is just nuts!

    @KatieG – yes, I remember, “Times!” and, “Un-times!”

  50. Crazy Cat Lady September 2, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Amy, sadly, the playground got demolished when a new building was put up 3 years ago. We got moved to a new building, with a “Brand new playground.” No swings. The district is getting rid of swings for liability reasons. We also have a new principal who doesn’t think that kids over 8th grade need a break.

  51. Steve N September 2, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    Lately there have been several posts here about seriously overprotective policies.

    How Over-involved Can Adults Get at Recess?
    My Child Had to Take Two Buddies AND a Counselor to Go To the Bathroom at Night
    “Never Post Your Child’s Picture with the School Bus License Plate Visible” — Really?

    I think it’s important to make the point that this isn’t just people being silly and overprotective and overbearing. The extreme risk aversion that we’re seeing is actively detrimental to our society.

    The USA used to be a vibrant and growing place because we were a country of risk takers, starting with the immigrants who risked so much just to get here. Americans would take risks to start a business, move across the country for a better job. Now everybody is so deathly afraid of losing what they have that they’ve started to turn on each other in order to keep their little piece of the pie.

    This type of extreme risk aversion isn’t just a goofy thing to make fun of. It’s hurting us.

  52. Amy September 2, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    Oh that’s really sad to hear Crazy Cat

  53. jimc5499 September 2, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

    I’ve seen it all now. When I was in fourth grade the big game was War. If you looked in our cloakroom it looked like an armory. Everybody had one of those plastic guns that made a rat-a-tat-tat sound when you pulled the trigger. Took about thirty seconds to divide up and the fight was on. Nobody was left out. (We had spare guns) It was a good time.

  54. James Pollock September 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    “I would never have my kid at a school like this. No games should ever have to be written down, decided, finalized, submitted to a committee, explained to grownups or forced to meet some kind of guidelines”

    Yeah. Literally NOBODY is arguing the other side. There is no “school like this” as you describe. The actual school in the actual world, is, well not actually the way you imagine it.
    Had you read the ENTIRE article, you would have come to the part where Mr. Clark, the school’s principal, is quoted “as always, students are able to play games and participate in activities of their choice during recess”{

  55. Theresa Hall September 2, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    James if there’s no rule then why the sign? It would be like me putting a stop sign on a dead end street not much point.

  56. C. Wilson September 2, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    Three years ago I was a special ed classroom aide at an elementary school. The PTA decided that the next school year, they would hire Recess Game Directors to come in at recess time to lead organized games. All children would be “encouraged” to participate in order to minimize conflict on the playground. I transferred to a new school. This was not the primary reason I transferred, but it certainly factored into the decision. Creative, free-play is dead. (RIP, “Calvin- ball” type games…)

  57. James Pollock September 2, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    “James if there’s no rule then why the sign? It would be like me putting a stop sign on a dead end street not much point.”

    I totally agree. What sign are you talking about? There’s no sign in this story.

    There IS a sign in my hypothetical situation upthread, wherein it was (hypothetically) used to settle a (hypothetical) problem amongst (hypothetical) children. In that (hypothetical) case, however, there WAS a rule promulgated by the (hypothetical) adults to regulate the use of the facilities by the (still hypothetical) children, to make sure all the children got at least a chance to play they way they (hypothetically) wanted to.

    So, I’m (not hypothetically) confused what you are referring to. What sign?

  58. Emily September 2, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    >>Three years ago I was a special ed classroom aide at an elementary school. The PTA decided that the next school year, they would hire Recess Game Directors to come in at recess time to lead organized games. All children would be “encouraged” to participate in order to minimize conflict on the playground. I transferred to a new school. This was not the primary reason I transferred, but it certainly factored into the decision. Creative, free-play is dead. (RIP, “Calvin- ball” type games…)<<

    "Encouraged" to participate? What did that look like? Would the adults take "No thanks, I'm reading/talking to my friend/going to play on the swings/otherwise doing my own thing?"; for an answer, or did they chastise and hassle students who didn't want to join in an organized game of Gaga Ball or whatever? Because, if that program had existed when I was a kid, I might have participated from time to time, depending on what the activities were, but if it was mandatory, I would have hated it–it would have felt like an extra gym class during a time that should have been a break.

  59. Puzzled September 2, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    With the clarification, I don’t see much to raise a fuss about.

    At the same time, the whole issue reminds me of trying to figure out how a dog catches a frisbee. The equations aren’t all that simple – but the dog isn’t solving them to decide when to jump. Similarly, all these concerns about kids figuring out the rules, are there enough resources and space – these things sort themselves out.

    When I was a teacher, we had mandatory sports time in the afternoon. Each season, there were 3 options – a varsity sport, weight lifting, and “intramurals,” which meant playing whatever games each day. I was put in charge of intramurals a few seasons, and, because of the way it was set up, I quickly learned the problems of micro-management. I still remember one student explaining, sadly, that in an over-scheduled day with little free time, sports should be the time to do what they want – but the teachers were still choosing what games to play, and enforcing the rules. He was right – and that was high school.

  60. Backroads September 2, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    “”Also, I kept reading this headline as “how can over-involved parents get recess?” Which is a funny concept.””

    I think it would be good for them! Stop fussing and worrying, run around, play a game, read a book, socialize with your peers.

  61. Papilio September 2, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    I was just wondering if you were still recovering from your facepalm when I remembered it’s Saturday… (@BL: And that was BEFORE I read the comments!)

    “they would hire Recess Game Directors to come in at recess time to lead organized games. All children would be “encouraged” to participate”

    Am I the only one envisioning Dolores Umbridge doing the “encouraging”? It sounds *that* ominous!

  62. Mya Greene September 2, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

    I had seriously thought my elementary school playground was bad enough with its grade-level designated play areas which rotated on a weekly basis, ban on frisbees, and army of people on site ( one of these got a peek at my journal and called CPS back around 2007!) who appeared to have no other job than to make sure that the terms of the school’s insurance policy weren’t being violated in some counterintuitive way.

    The more you know.

  63. Willow September 2, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

    So when the rules change next week, or tomorrow, or 10 minutes into the game because the kids decide they can make it better if…, do they have to start at the beginning of the approval process, or can they just submit a “WeirdGame version 2.0 update?

  64. Willow September 2, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

    We did “time out” and “time in”

  65. JTW September 3, 2017 at 1:10 am #

    But this way the children get to learn a very important thing: that citizens should ALWAYS defer any and all decisions to authority, and NEVER do anything without prior approval.

    In an authoritarian society (and that’s what we’re heading for very rapidly) those are pretty much the only things you need to know. After all, the government will tell you what to do and how to do it at every turn, and punish you harshly for any transgression or failure…

  66. Donald September 3, 2017 at 5:33 am #

    @JTW

    That’s a great way to sum it up! You’re right. People get so focused on management that they forget the downside of this.

  67. James September 6, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

    @Mary:

    “From what I have read, this program was about one area of the playground. This was in no way a school policy and certainly didn’t apply to everything happening at recess. I think you would still see lots of free totally unstructured play. If no one pariticipated, so what? When you read about the proposed program in it’s entirety it seems it was intended to encourage creativity.”

    This doesn’t make it any better. This is how pilot studies are conducted–small-scale experiments before rolling out programs on a larger scale.

    Second, I don’t believe that adding paperwork to a situation has ever encouraged creativity, except in the overlords demanding we do the paperwork. Sometimes that’s good–I’ve added paperwork to my jobs because people were getting too creative with their record-keeping. When it comes to play? No. Sorry, but there is no chance of this helping creativity.

    That said, your point about insurance is well-taken. I’ve long thought that insurance is becoming a shadow-government, making what amount to regulations without any oversight or input from the public. Insurance is perhaps the most dangerous institution to our republic.

  68. QuantumMechanic September 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    The attempt to wriggle out of it (“We regret that the specific language of the parent letter was interpreted as restricting play; this was not our intent.”) is a blatant lie.

    Here’s the letter:
    “Hello Jefferson Road families! My name is Rachel Hutchins and I am the Parents on the Playground Chair for the PTSA. We are excited to introduce a new program of parent participation this year on our playground.
    We need your child’s input! We know that many children have favorite tag, chase and hide and seek games they like to play on the playground. At the moment we only have two (Freeze Tag and Stuck in the Mud). If there is a game your child would like to add, help them fill out the card below so we can add it to our list. This way, all students know the rules of the game and know how to join in once it has started being played.
    The challenge — if your child does not add their game to the list, the game may not be allowed on the playground. Our goal is not to restrict what games can be played. Instead, we are resolving the conflicts of the past by making game rules clear to everyone. By having the rules and joining guidelines available to playground monitors, they can help children play together without having to stop the games from going on.
    These will also be coming home in your child’s take home folder and will be available at the front office.”

    That “specific language in the parent letter” sure as hell seems pretty explicitly intended to “restrict play”.

  69. James Pollock September 6, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    “That ‘specific language in the parent letter’ sure as hell seems pretty explicitly intended to ‘restrict play’.”

    Yeah! Especially this part:
    “‘Our goal is not to restrict what games can be played.'”

  70. lollipoplover September 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    @James Pollock-

    And especially this part:

    “The challenge- if your child does not add their game to the list, the game may not be allowed on the playground.”

  71. James Pollock September 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

    One of those statements is a conditional, the other is absolute.

    There are some games that are not going to be allowed on the playground. Strip dodgeball is probably a lot of fun, but not at school. The knockout game isn’t going to be allowed, ever.

    But (and this is important) when the school has your kids, they are making decisions about your kids without you, and sometimes those decisions are what you would have chosen, and sometimes they are not what you would have chosen. The parents who do want their children to play without adult supervision can allow them to do so when they aren’t in school. The parents who do not want their children to be unsupervised can arrange for that.

    They wanted to encourage children to make up new games. They also wanted to make sure that the new games didn’t create problems… whether because important rules were undetermined, or because the game was intentionally made to exclude or harm someone. You know, the way recess games have ALWAYS been monitored by schools.
    I mean, the game “Every punch Steve as hard as you can” might be lots of fun, for everybody who isn’t Steve, but it’s likely to create problems on the playground. So will “sneak up on the girls wearing skirts and lift them up” and “The kissing game”, both of which had to be stamped out at the elementary school I went to in the 70’s. So do games that tie up limited resources, but have lots of people who want to play.

    If you want to see this as “OMG! They want to tell the kids what to play!”, fine. But it really isn’t. It’s really “there’s some things we can’t/don’t want you to do, and we are going to keep you from doing those, just like we did before.”
    Recess time is really the school’s time This is true now, it was true yesterday, it was true when you were a kid. The school has authority to limit you/your kid during school time… even during recess.

    I just don’t see cause for alarm here, expecially considering that the “new rules” were in place for a whole year before anyone even noticed.

    There ARE trends that are worth concern. This isn’t one.

  72. BL September 6, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

    @James Pollock
    ” You know, the way recess games have ALWAYS been monitored by schools.”

    There’s a difference between monitoring and micro-managing.

    In the second school I attended (3rd-6th grade, a small town in Ohio), a popular playground game was touch football. That was the school rule – touch football, not tackle.

    There was no rule about rotating players, or making it “inclusive”, although it wasn’t hard to join (as I found out after tiring of Red Rover for a time). There was no spelling out of all the rules – we could play with a blitz count, or not. Start the game with a kickoff, punt-off or throw-off. Require a certain number of linemen – or not. Play two-hand or one-hand touch, as preferred. We just couldn’t play tackle football.

    Once in a blue moon the playground monitor might see play getting a bit rough and say “hey, guys, it’s supposed to be touch, not tackle, right?” That was about the extent of interference by TPTB.

  73. lollipoplover September 6, 2017 at 8:41 pm #

    @BL- Our elementary gets a teacher rotation and they only intervene when there’s an injury/tears/drama. Games are played- basketball, soccer, football, four square, wall ball, kickball. Hopscotch, jump rope, and of course the swings and playground.

    The biggest issue? Lack of balls or “Tom Brady” balls that are deflated. I took my kid to Five Below and sent donated some inexpensive ones at open house. Might find an extra pump to send in to, now that I think of it.

    Kids don’t want/need parents micro-managing their brief 30 min. breaks. The teachers know this too. They even let the kids thatvwant no parts of running and games stay off to the side or even indoors to read if that’s how they want to spend their break.

    These parents need a hobby.

  74. James Pollock September 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

    “There’s a difference between monitoring and micro-managing.”

    Sure there is. I’ll point this out again, though…

    They ran the playground under the “new system” for a year before anyone noticed. It got attention not because something new happened, but because a radio show talked about it. So then the various adults came out and said “no, it’s not a big deal, nobody’s micromanaging the kids or telling them what to play or how to play it.”

    So… either they ARE micromanaging the kids, and nobody noticed for at least a year, or they aren’t micromanaging the kids.

    ” There was no spelling out of all the rules – we could play with a blitz count, or not. Start the game with a kickoff, punt-off or throw-off. Require a certain number of linemen – or not. Play two-hand or one-hand touch, as preferred.”

    Those sound like rules. Are you honestly saying you played with some people understanding the rules, and some people not understanding the rules?
    Are you confusing having variable rules, for not having rules?

    Consider playing poker. You can have “dealer’s choice”, wherein each player gets a turn to deal, and picks a variation on poker… deuces wild, 7-card stud, 5-card-draw, etc. But there’d better be agreement about whether a straight beats a flush, or how to resolve a winner if two different players pull full houses… if I have 8’s over trey’s, and you have deuces over aces, who won?

    Calling recess “unstructured play” is just not correct. It’s considerably less-structured than the rest of the school day is, yes. But the school tells the kids when to start playing, and when to stop playing, and it generally tells them with whom to play (in the general sense) because recess times are staggered so that the first-graders and the fifth-graders usually aren’t out there together. And the kids usually don’t have a choice to stay indoors, or leave the school grounds, and sometimes will have their choice of playthings removed from their possession (In my day, it was slingshots that got taken away; later generations lost GameBoys, Pokemon Cards, and phones because they were unapproved-of distractions.)

    True “unstructured play” happens when, after school, kids come together (or not) at the schoolyard (or not) and do what they want to do. But even that “unstructured” play tends to fall into structures, as they play games that are well-understood… kickball or baseball or H-O-R-S-E or tag or whatever.

  75. BL September 7, 2017 at 5:11 am #

    @James Pollock
    “So… either they ARE micromanaging the kids, and nobody noticed for at least a year, or they aren’t micromanaging the kids.”

    It sounds like indeed they (the school authorities) are micro-managing, and parents and children are so inured to this in 2017 that they didn’t blink until someone (on the radio) pointed it out.

    “Are you honestly saying you played with some people understanding the rules, and some people not understanding the rules?”

    Some people? Which people? The players all understood the rules, because the rules were negotiated among them before the game started. The playground monitors didn’t have to understand – they just have to glance over occasionally and see that it’s touch football and not tackle, and nobody’s getting hurt.

    Nor did anyone review our play for “rotating players…inclusive, age-appropriate, equipment-friendly” Maybe “insurable” was the reason we had to play touch and not tackle. Inclusive? We’d have had to let girls play, and then how do keep touching from becoming sexual harassment? Probably by banning all games with touching (even tag or Red Rover, a favorite on our playground).

    “Consider playing poker. You can have “dealer’s choice”, wherein each player gets a turn to deal, and picks a variation on poker… deuces wild, 7-card stud, 5-card-draw, etc”

    You think nobody would tell poker players which games they could play? The famed Gardena poker houses in the mid-20th century only allowed draw poker, because of an archaic but still-on-the-books California law specifically forbidding stud poker. The law was old and nobody remembered why anyone would ban one form of poker and not another, but there it was.

  76. BL September 7, 2017 at 5:20 am #

    @lollipoplover
    “Our elementary gets a teacher rotation and they only intervene when there’s an injury/tears/drama. ”

    Very sensible – unexpectedly so, these days.

  77. lollipoplover September 7, 2017 at 9:26 am #

    @BL- It is not utopia, but it is a lot less Lord of the Flies, especially when there’s more equipment and room to play all kinds of games (without prior authorization).

    Most of the squabbles I have heard from last year were due to kids not being “included” when kids were really trying taking turns with limited teams and space…only one ball, etc. Guess what? Bring in more balls and play 3 or 4 different games of four square- everyone gets to play before the bell rings…everyone is happy. It’s only 30 minutes!

    Sounds like they want to spend half of recess talking to these kids about the rules of preapproved games when they are really cutting into precious, limited play time. Why do parents need to be involved in any of this? The day I type up *rules* to childhood games to enforce as a patent volunteer on a playground is the day my friends and family march me to an employment counselor or volunteer at a homeless shelter to better serve the world.

  78. James Pollock September 7, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    “It sounds like indeed they (the school authorities) are micro-managing”

    Are you SURE you’re not just hearing what you “want” to hear?

    “There was no spelling out of all the rules”
    “The players all understood the rules, because the rules were negotiated among them before the game started.”

    Make up your mind. Which was it?

    ” Inclusive? We’d have had to let girls play”
    Eek! A girl? EEEEWWWW!

    “how do keep touching from becoming sexual harassment?”
    We played touch football in P.E. up through 8th grade. I guess you keep it from becoming sexual harassment by banning sexual harassment, and dealing with cases of sexual harassment as they come up?

    “You think nobody would tell poker players which games they could play?”
    Just out of curiosity, where’d you come up with this idea?

    “nobody remembered why anyone would ban one form of poker and not another”
    Fairly obvious. Stud poker is a game of chance. You win or lose based solely on the cards you get handed. Draw poker is a game of skill. You win or lose based partly on which cards you get handed, partly on which cards you choose to keep and which you choose to discard.

  79. James Pollock September 7, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    “Sounds like they want to spend half of recess talking to these kids about the rules of preapproved games when they are really cutting into precious, limited play time.”

    Sounds like you’re inventing a lot of details that weren’t in the story, and then proceeding to your conclusion as if the invented details were real.

    “Why do parents need to be involved in any of this?”
    To resolve problems (mostly, as you noted, involving resource shortages) in a way that is fair to everybody instead of the way that is fair to one group of students, and not fair to another group of students. Why do courts get involved iin contract disputes, instead of just letting the parties settle their differences at ten paces?

    Let me summarize both sides:
    One of them is “let the kids solve the disputes. They need to learn how to do this”, to which the other sides’ answers involve having the kids actively playing instead of standing around talking about it, and the fact that while kids WILL find a way to resolve the dispute, the method they choose may not be the one we want them to learn. (“The kid more willing to punch the other one wins the argument” being a common solution.)

    The problem that I see is the assumption that “leaving kids alone to play” leads directly and inexorably to “the kids learned how to settle their differences fairly and equitably” (there may be some who see “fairly and equitably” as optional, but they probably won’t say so out loud.) The thing is, the best way to have kids learn to settle their problems among themselves is NOT to leave them alone and hope they stumble upon it. The best way is to teach them what you want them to learn, then leave them alone to practice the new skill.

  80. BL September 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    ‘“There was no spelling out of all the rules”
    “The players all understood the rules, because the rules were negotiated among them before the game started.”

    Make up your mind. Which was it?’

    There was no spelling out of the rules weeks or months ahead of time, to be approved by non-playing authorities, and cast in stone in a PDF (in my youth, I guess it would have been mimeographs, if we’d done such a thing) for the foreseeable future.

    ‘Eek! A girl? EEEEWWWW!’

    Boys would get a worse reaction than that trying to join the girls’ jump-rope game.

    ‘Fairly obvious. Stud poker is a game of chance. You win or lose based solely on the cards you get handed. Draw poker is a game of skill. You win or lose based partly on which cards you get handed, partly on which cards you choose to keep and which you choose to discard.’

    Good lord! Have you ever played poker? The skill in drawing and discarding is relatively trivial. The skill in deciding to open or call or raise or drop is not trivial, for a large percentage of hands – the hands that decide who wins money and loses it. In five-card stud, which was still popular in the Gardena heyday, there are four rounds of betting.

  81. BL September 7, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

    @James Pollock
    “You’re right. It’s not trivial. It’s non-existent. It’s the same level of skill needed to decide whether to put your chip on red or black, or odd or even, or on #27 in roulette, on make or lose in craps, or whether or not to buy a Powerball ticket.”

    Wow.

    I’m not going to read the wall of text above, since I have no reason to believe you know more about playground games than poker. And you know nothing about poker.

  82. jeffrey2016 September 7, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    Is this April fools? I can’t imagine that the kids not simply played it and didn’t give a sh*t about the adults trying to stop them.

  83. James September 8, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    “The challenge — if your child does not add their game to the list, the game may not be allowed on the playground. Our goal is not to restrict what games can be played. Instead, we are resolving the conflicts of the past by making game rules clear to everyone. By having the rules and joining guidelines available to playground monitors, they can help children play together without having to stop the games from going on.”

    The first one demonstrates conclusively that this is far more than a mere pilot study. It’s blatant restriction of what kids can do.

    The next two lines are even more troubling, though. One of the points of childhood games–an literally any animal that plays games–is so that the kids can learn how to be adults. This includes conflict management. Half the bloody POINT of games as children is for the kids to learn how to negotiate and handle difference of opinion! To remove that aspect makes play far, far less fulfilling.

    Secondly, this sets up an authoritarian arbiter of right and wrong. It’s bad enough that our schools can easily be mistaken for prisons; now our kids can’t even escape from this dystopian totalitarianism during their “free time”. This is, simply put, teaching children that they must submit to authority, that they have no capacity to handle their own affairs, and that they are merely to obey.

    Dramatic? Perhaps. But that’s exactly how we interpreted it when, as kids, my class had recess activities restricted to a small list (eventually just 1) of acceptable activities. And that was WITHOUT constant oversight to ensure we followed the letter of the law.

  84. Alex September 9, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    I just wanted to say that how intelligent do adult supervisors have to be to figure out the rules of a game some 6 or 7 year old came up with. Watch the game for 5 minutes and if you can’t figure out the rules your probably shouldn’t be left in charge of anyone, let alone a group of children

  85. Dave Booth September 11, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    And why do they need parents “helping out” on the playground? Isn’t that the teachers’ job? Or had the bureaucracy loaded the teachers up with so much paperwork they need recess time to catch up? Or, is it the teachers’ union insisting that teachers get this time for a break?

    Parents on the playground is bad for many reasons. They’re not trained or experienced in dealing with large groups of children, and will either sit on the side lines and do little or nothing when the should become involved (a fight, or really dangerous activity), or become so involved they try to structure and control all activity.