American Schools Have a Sad Lack of Play According to American Journal of Play

The Strong News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 • 585-263-2700 •

April 18, 2019

For Immediate Release

Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365,

Noelle McElrath-Hart, 585-410-6325,

American Schools Have a
“Sad” Lack of Play According to
American Journal of Play

ROCHESTER, NY—What’s the state of play in America’s schools? There’s little fun and a troubling lack of playfulness in classrooms according to an interview in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Play. Olga Jarrett, professor emeritus of Early Childhood and Science Education at Georgia State University, says that pressures to increase standardized test scores have pushed creativity and recess from the curriculum, much to the detriment of children’s development.

Jarret argues that recess provides crucial cognitive benefits to all children, allowing their brains to internalize information more efficiently, and that it also helps them to build social skills and learn to negotiate with their peers. “Brain research indicates that humans lose concentration if they sit too long and try to focus on a particular subject without breaks. Recess offers an important physical outlet that also renews the brain and allows it to be more efficient in learning,” she says.

Jarrett argues that this problem worsens in high-poverty communities. “My research shows that children in high-poverty schools (are) less likely to have recess than children in more wealthy schools. Also, many children, such as those with ADHD or children struggling with challenging situations at home, are deprived of recess as punishment. These are children who particularly need to be active, to learn to resolve conflicts, and to decide what is fair—lessons often learned during recess.”

Schools in the United States, she says, are far behind much of the world in their playful offerings and should follow the example of other countries—such as Finland, Japan, and Taiwan—which provide regular recess and achieve higher test scores. She recommends that parents and teachers have discussions with their school authorities about including play in their curriculum at the district-level, but she recognizes the limitations placed on some school officials. She argues that pushing for bills at the state and national-level to require recess will have the most lasting impact.

She says, “Article 31 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child ensures children the right to play. This human rights treaty has been ratified by 196 member countries. Only the United States has not yet ratified it.”

According to Jarrett, that needs to change—and soon.

Additional articles in Vol. 11, No. 2 of the American Journal of Play include:

“Praxis Games: A Design Philosophy for Mobilizing Knowledge through Play,” by Steve Wilcox. The author draws on learning theory, feminist epistemology, and game studies to analyze a novel genre of games capable of mobilizing knowledge through play—praxis games—founded on the concept of situated praxis. To demonstrate this ability, the author discusses his experiences with games related to healthcare.

“Playing with Words: Dav Pilkey’s Literary Success in Humorous Language,” by Evangeline E. Nwokah, Vanessa Hernandez, Erin Miller, and Ariana Garza. The authors analyze the sound and word play in Dav Pilkey’s illustrated books, arguing that his choices with hyperbole and linguistic creativity shift the reader in a carnivalesque play frame.

“Homo Ludens: A Renewed Reading,” by Peter McDonald. The author examines Johan Huizinga’s influential Homo Ludens. Drawing on phenomenological, linguistic, and hermeneutic elements in the text, he presents an alternative understanding of play’s form and what resists formalization.

The complete issue of the American Journal of Play can be accessed freely online at Printed editions are also available for subscription and single-copy purchase.

About the American Journal of Play
The American Journal of Play is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary publication that serves as a forum for discussing the history, science, and culture of play. Published three times each year by The Strong museum in Rochester, New York, the Journal includes articles, interviews, and book reviews written for a broad readership that includes educators, psychologists, play therapists, sociologists, anthropologists, folklorists, historians, museum professionals, toy and game designers, policy makers, and others who consider play for a variety of reasons and from various