‘Not it!’ More schools ban games at recess

Emily Bazar:

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.

Madison’s Thoreau school implemented a controversial mandatory grouping recess plan (no free play) earlier this year.

6 thoughts on “‘Not it!’ More schools ban games at recess”

  1. Safety, the purported rationale, has nothing to do with it. Rather, in all the games mentioned there are winners and losers. Slower children get tagged out quicker and we can have none of this!!!!!
    Yet the same progressive nannies concoct lofty district mission statements like “preparing our children to excel in a global society.”
    It seems the progrenannies, filled with guilt over the success of the United States (and obviously harboring painful childhood memories of being “picked” last) are hell bent to level the playing field…….down.
    reed schneider

  2. Our elementary school banned TAG had nothing to do with winners and losers. They banned it because kids of opposite sex were touching each other “inappropriately”. My question is was it truly inappropriate under kids view, or were we setting adult standards. My kids never saw anything inappropriate happening.

  3. I know that the playground game problems at my son’s school (Randall) had to do with conflicts, cruelty and bullying. Tag games were suspended but reinstated with some limits.
    The best playground activity was a supervised touch football “league” that included boys and girls, athletes and non sports kids. What made it so good was that the two teachers, Mr Bakken and Mr. Watters made sure everyone had a chance and everyone was treated fairly. This was much better than the endless conflicts over the rules of variations on tag or other traditional games.
    Bakken and Watters are exceptional, I think most of the problems come from a lack of engaged supervision. I don’t mean that adults have to plan the activities and guide them, but those assigned to the playgrounds (a difficult and low paid job) do need to pay attention and intervene before there is a problem.

  4. I don’t see this as having anything to do with “leveling the playing field.” But hey, don’t reading programs try to level the playing field?;)

  5. When are we as adults going to let children be children and learn from experience. Part of growing up is learning the appropriate skills to resolve conflict, problem solve and standing up for what one believes in. Yes, this is difficult but we all have to learn sometime, and it is best to learn when you can come home and talk about it over dinner with your parents, than when you are in a college dorm. Children learn by playing with other children. It is difficult for them to learn this as adults when they did not have the chance to practice when young. Besides, aren’t we a society that is concerned that children are not getting enough excercise? If they cannot play at recess, what message are we sending them? Please let the children play and have adults supervise.

  6. Tag has been disallowed at our kids’ elementary school (Falk) for years. It really WAS a matter of it turning into “accidental” (or NOT) shoving and even pseudo-tackling. They do play soccer still, even though that sometimes degenerates into the typical children’s arguments.
    There has been more of an effort to teach all of the kids the same rules for the group games that ARE still encouraged, and to teach them ways to deal with disagreements peacably (for example, if two kids really can’t agree on what happened or didn’t happen, the kids play rock, paper, scissors, and the winner of 2 out of 3 is supposed to have the final word, end of story). Of course, it does not always work, but it was lowering arguments and playground incidents that lead to referrals to the office for discipline: at least as long as new adults “bought into” it and encouraged use of the system consistently.
    In my view, the problem continues to be with insufficient or inappropriate adult supervision. If one of the TWO teachers watching the whole playground for lunch recess is trying to track the soccer game and help ensure that the focus there stays on involving everyone, that leaves much more opportunity for the kids who do not choose to take part in the sport to bully or be bullied quietly, so the remaining teacher can’t tell what is going on. (Add to that the fact that these are usually not “teachers” but aides who are often overworked, rushed from one place to another for fifteen minute shifts, and not given enough time to even eat their own lunch or catch their breath.)
    The problems we have run into with bullying at Falk are significant. We are a very mobile population (as many as 50% of our kids in April of one year had not been at Falk only one April previous – NOT including the Kindergartners who are of course all new). Teaching all those kids (much less all the adults!) all the rules consistently over and over again as new people move in and out is very difficult. The kids are encouraged to remind each other of “gimme five” rules for attention-getting, and what constitutes “above the line” behavior. Still, when another child tries to remind many of the kids who cause a lot of trouble to stay “above the line”, the “remindee” can get hostile quickly. That means that many of the “good” kids are afraid to say anything and become quiet bystanders.
    The anti-bullinyg curriculum tries to teach them that the bystander is important and powerful if they step in or get help. often though, when kids step in to protect friends or neutral others, or even go to get adult help because other kids are ignoring the alleged “peer pressure” to behave, some of the ADULTS tell them to “ignore it”, or “if ____ is having a problem, then _____ needs to come tell me about it”. They tell them it is not tattling if someone is getting (or about to get) hurt, then practically accuse them of tattling or sticking their noses into others’ business if they try to get help for someone being threatened or chased. The children are the extra eyes and ears none of our schols seem to be able to afford to provide during recess anymore. When they are repeatedly told to go back and deal with it on their own, ignore the bully’s taunts or threats, etc., they stop going for adult help. As my first grade daughter tells me, “Don’t they understand that we already asked them to stop AND then tried ignoring it before we went to get adult help like they tell us to?” Apparently, many of the adults do not believe in what they are supposedly teaching the students to do, and therefore, doubt that any of them are actually trying to use it.
    Recess is a problem for a lot of reasons. Only one of them is the win-lose mentality of many group games, or the proclivity for many physically active games to get too aggressive or competitive (some kids cannot just “play” at competitive games, because they take it all too seriously and have never learned to be good sports win-or-lose). When we try to give kids a one-size-fits-all reaction pattern, they get confused when it doesn’t work – just as the district (or a particular school or adult) tries to make one-size-fits-all solutions and then acts surprised when they don’t work.
    Forgive the length. But this is something we have had huge problems with at the elementary schools my children have attended and I have worked at. It is not easily solved, and most certainly not by outlawing games or group physical activities. Next, they are going to tell them they can’t run outside because someone might fall and get hurt.

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