Rose Hardy, Headmistress at St Margaret’s School shares her thoughts on how the school playground plays a big part of the development of children.
Play time is more than simply a part of the day for children to let off steam. While all children need to have regular breaks from the focus and challenge expected in the classroom, play actually gives them an additional way to discover, take risks and challenge themselves without the rigid structure of day to day lessons. Play is imperaive to children’s growth and development, both in body and in mind. It is only through play that children begin to learn more about who they are as a person, their strengths and weaknesses and the differences in personalities between them and their friends or peers.
Out in the playground children also learn about taking responsibility for their actions, about what it means to make choices independently as also about how to use their social skills. Play time is actually much more important than it might first appear on the surface because children also enjoy a level of control over their time in the playground, something which is less likely or at least different to the traditional classroom setting. However, this new sense of freedom also has to work alongside playground rules and for many children this is the biggest lesson they must learn.
School playgrounds should be designed to offer safe but enhanced opportunities for physical challenge as well as to encourage imaginative and cooperative play to help children learn about goals, perseverance and resilience. Where children are constantly pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and striving to achieve new goals, as well as being around peers who are trying out new physical challenges, also inspires others too and can often give children that extra push and determination to succeed.
For many children the playground can be a place of enhanced opportunities. When we speak to children about what they think is important in their own lives, we usually find that playing and spending time with their friends is close to the top of their list. This is for good reason, playing is one of the only natural ways for children to communicate with eachother from a very young age and schools need to continue to give children the space and the freedom to play safely whilst knowing when to intervene and when to take a step back.
With different boundaries to those we see in the classroom, the outdoor play environment offers a stimulating haven upon which to participate in physical challenges and also to learn more about imagination, role playing and cooperative play. Most importantly, play is what makes us human and it’s also what makes us happy.
About St Margaret’s School
St Margaret’s School is an independent day and boarding school for girls aged 4 to 18 years. Based in Bushey, Hertfordshire, the school is steeped in history and is among one of the oldest in the UK dating back to 1749. Offering a range of flexible boarding options for both UK and international pupils from the age of 11 years, the school is set over 60 acres of beautiful grounds and places its renowned pastoral care and proven track record of academic success at the heart of its culture and ethos. With a rich programme of extra-curricular activities, its girls are encouraged to discover their talents in a caring environment that fosters a genuine enthusiasm for learning in an evolving world filled with complex challenges and exciting new possibilities.