NO. RULES. SCHOOL. Need I say more?
Imagine growing up all over again and going back to school. Think about the rules that were in place: no running in the halls, no playing with sticks, no climbing trees. All rules which are pretty standard across most schools in North America. Across the pacific ocean however is a school in New Zealand who has rethought this whole “rules” thing.
Even more so today, play at school has become restricted, structured even, all in the name of safety. On the surface it seems like a good system: impose rules on my children so that they come home looking the same way they did when I dropped them off in the morning – (insert “that was easy” button here).
This might make sense considering we want our children to be focused learning about literacy, numeracy, and music. But there is one thing that we are forgetting about teaching our children, physical literacy — the often left out 4th literacy.
By imposing these rules and restricting what is now deemed as “unsafe” or “reckless” play, we are actually robbing children of basic physical development, or so thinks one the Principal of Swanson School in New Zealand. The same sentiments are also echoed in a post we put out last week sharing the thoughts of the Ottawa Senators Strength Coach Chris Schwarz and his idea that youth athletes aren’t developing movement skills.
One big issue of not engaging in play, according to both the Principal and Schwarz, is the inability for children to assess risk on their own. The theory behind it being that the more children take risks, the quicker they will become aware of their personal boundaries and limits.
However, while in the beginning rules were imposed to guide play and keep it safe, they have in fact limited play and caused children to adopt more sedentary activities, as they are deemed as “safe”.
Swanson School in New Zealand has rethought the whole idea of “rules” bounding play and is built around the principle that they don’t need them. In 2014, Dateline visited them just to find out what all the fuss was about.
I’m not saying that every school needs to be like Swanson. In fact, I myself might be a little apprehensive to send my (future) child there, however it is indisputable that there are incredible benefits children get from just simple play. The problem is that kids aren’t playing.
Maybe it’s time to loose the leash and see what happens.
Let us know what you think about this No Rules School in the comments below. For more on Swanson School, you can find the full story: here
Brandon Brock is currently pursuing a degree in Honours Recreation & Sports Business (Co-op) at the University of Waterloo. A current intern at Canada Basketball, Brandon’s basketball passion lies in coaching – he is also an Assistant Coach with the University of Waterloo Men’s Basketball Team.