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The Power of the Playground

By David Bornstein

Ask a young child, “How was school today?” and you’re likely to hear about recess. My son is 7 years old, and like many children his age, recess is the emotional core of his school day. Whether he comes home light- or heavy-hearted depends on what happened during play time. This is common. Researchers say that one of the best predictors of whether kids feel happy in school is whether they feel comfortable and competent during recess.

This is not exactly a groundbreaking insight. Philosophers and child development experts have been trumpeting the importance of play for centuries. Piaget said that children discover the world through play. Friedrich Froebel, who opened the first kindergarten in 1837, called play “deeply significant.” And Plato believed that children had to grow up in an atmosphere of play to become virtuous citizens.

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