No Time For Play

The three-part radio series No Time For Play examines how schools in the Seattle area are increasingly limiting kids' physical activity and play times. It was reported by Ann Dornfeld and edited by Carol Smith.

Whittier Elementary School third-grader Kai Holec said ever since his lunch period got shortened to 15 minutes this year, he hasn't been able to finish his meal before it's time to go to recess.

And that's not enough to keep him going.

Janna Espinoza's daughter Coraline has hearing loss, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and developmental delays. Nearly 2 years old, she can't sit up, stand, creep or use her hands as a typically developing child does.

Coraline is among an estimated 6.4 million children in the U.S. with a disability. And for these kids the simple ritual of playing outside can get very complicated.

"My daughter can't do very much at a typical playground, except watch her older sister play," says Espinoza. "Playgrounds are a depressing place for us."

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

More and more research suggests that healthy playtime leads to healthy adulthood.

Childhood play is essential for brain development. As we've reported this week, time on the playground may be more important than time in the classroom.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.

When Kids Start Playing To Win

Aug 5, 2014

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

It's a playful word that's developed something of a bad reputation: "competition." The fear among some parents is that, once children start playing to win, at around 5 years old, losing isn't just hard. It's devastating.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

Braden Swenson wanders into a semi-rickety wooden shed on his search for gold, treasure and riches.

"Is there any tweasure in here?" he asks in the endearing dialect of a 4-year-old. "I've been looking everywhere for them. I can't find any." The proto-pirate toddler conducts a quick search, then wanders away to continue his quest elsewhere.

Photo Credit Playworks

The recess for the youngest students at Ardmore Elementary School in Bellevue doesn’t look like your typical recess.

Flickr Photo/Joe Shlabotnik (CC-BY-NC-ND)

In decades past, elementary students had recess several times a day.

Today, parents and teachers across the country report dramatic cutbacks to that free time. In Seattle, the length of recess varies dramatically from school to school – from an hour to just 15 minutes.

KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

At a playfield in West Seattle, physical education teacher C.J. Sealey referees with a piercing whistle. Sealey aims to get these kids moving – after all, state law demands that elementary and middle school students get at least 100 minutes of P.E. every week.