30/03/2011 13:24 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Schools Are Teaching Children How To Play

Do children really need to be taught how to play? It would seem so if schools in America are anything to go by. They are now hiring coaches in a bid to beat bullying, behaviour problems and obesity.

Non-profit organistion Playworks, which has been awarded an $18m grant, has placed coaches in 170 schools in low-income areas of nine nationwide cities.

But it would seem that not everyone thinks overseeing children's playtime is such a good thing – including the children.According to the New York Times, schools pay Playworks $23,500 a year to run the "recess programme". The coaches use a playbook with hundreds of games but allow students a say in what they do.

Adeola Whitney, executive director for Playworks in the Newark area, says: "It's not rigid in any way, and it certainly allows for their creativity.

"In some cases, we're teaching children how to play if they can't go to the park because it's drug-infested, or their parents can't afford to send them to activities."

A school in New Jersey has seen referrals for disciplinary issues drop by three-quarters and injuries reduced since hiring a Playworks coach in January, paid for by a grant from a local waste to energy plant.

"Before, I was seeing nosebleeds, busted lips, and students being a danger to themselves and others," the school principal Alejandro Echevarria tells The Times. "Now, Coach Brandi does miracles with 20 cones and three handballs."

Coach Brandi Parker says: "We're trying to get them to exert energy, to get it all out. They can be as loud as they want. I never tell them to be quiet unless I'm telling them something."

But not everyone thinks play coaches are a good idea, including children and parents.

In one New Jersey school, traditional break-time was dropped in favour of a midday fitness programme but after hundreds of people signed a petition it was reinstated in the middle school and on alternate days in elementary.

Jose Salcedo, a fourth grader who volunteers as a junior coach, tells The Times that he and his friends sometimes missed the old recess, because "nobody would tell us what to do."

Mum of three Maria Costa says her daughter came home feeling stressed after rushing through lunch to run laps. "I just can't imagine going through the entire day without a break, whether you're an adult or a child," she said.

And Dr. Romina M. Barros, author of a study on the benefits of recess published last year and an assistant clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, believes structured recess doesn't allow kids to unwind.

She told The Times: "You still have to pay attention. You still have to follow rules. You don't have that time for your brain to relax."

When there seems such pressure on our children to perform in tests, when they have most of their time micro-managed and when holiday play-schemes and after school clubs abound it seems such a shame to structure more of their time.

What do you think?

Source (ParentDish US)