So what are the first programs to go in a school budget cut? You guessed it: recess, art, physical education and music programs. Unfortunately, these cuts are having an impact on an entire generation and now we’re seeing it clearly as our children head to college.
They’re stressed out and under tremendous pressure. For many adolescents, getting “perfect” scores and unrealistic grades is the sole focus. And science is backing up what many of us already know: this distorted focus is not good for our children as they grow into adulthood.
According to the Greater Good Science Center, relying solely on test scores to gauge success in life is setting our kids up for failure.
Putting too much emphasis on test scores “ill-prepares learners for real life. The real world is messy and diverse and young people need to be creative, resourceful and resilient to succeed.”
Once kids reach the university level, many have no intrinsic love of learning or passion for the process. They’ve learned that grades are what matters, and they want to only focus on what will provide them with the qualifications needed to land a job.
Based on the financial burden many kids take on to go to college, this makes sense for the individual student. But when our children aren’t learning some basic life skills to help develop social and emotional intelligence, they’re missing out.
According to Daniel Goleman, author of numerous books on emotional and social intelligence, “Academic abilities do not predict how well we do in life. That’s why I’ve argued we should be teaching these life skills to every student. It’s your expertise and intelligence that get you the job – but your emotional intelligence that makes you a success.”
Science backs up the importance of play on the brain
According to Dr. Dan Siegel, MD:
“There’s a circuit in the emotional areas of the brain that’s involved in playfulness. It actually promotes plasticity of the brain. It engages creative combinations of things that can really benefit a worker. Too often we separate work from play. Yet incorporating more joy in our work life is a great thing to do neurologically.”
What else is a great predictor of success? According to many experts, learning how to manage your emotions. In fact, 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in highly stressful situations.
Emotionally intelligent people are able to step away when the stress is getting too high, while others may blow up and create conflict.
And where do we begin to learn how to manage emotions, get in touch with our feelings and negotiate for what we want?
The playground of course!
Playful learning at the college level
Noticing a lack of creative interest among students, some universities in the UK are bringing play back to the college level.
One example is at the University of Portsmouth, where instructors use “pervasive learning activities.” Some classes are taught with students working together through playful, detailed simulations to solve real-life problems. This allows students to make mistakes away from the real consequences of assessment.
Adults need play too
While play is crucial when we’re young, we need it in our lives as adults as well. It’s a time to forget about work commitments and daily stresses. It can be as simple as sharing a joke with a friend or partner, goofing off and throwing a Frisbee, or dancing the night away.
Here are just a few benefits of play for adults:
- Relieve stress. Play releases endorphins and promotes overall well-being.
- Improve brain function. Games like chess, Maj Jong and bridge help with memory and problem solving. They also facilitate social interaction.
- Boost creativity. Play helps us learn better and can stimulate problem solving.
- Strengthen relationships and connections. Sharing laughter fosters empathy, compassion and intimacy.
- Increase energy. Playing will boost your energy and vitality and help you resist disease.
Setting aside time for play can boost overall well-being at any age, so go ahead and give yourself a bit of recess. Schedule some play into your day, and let us know how it goes!
Tami Rogers is a mom, award winning writer, blogger and frequent contributor to BodiMojo, as well as other parenting magazines and websites focused on the emotional well being of teens. She is co-author with BodiMojo founder, Tara Cousineau, of Smart Guide to a Smartphone Friendly Family (Download your copy!)