Today was my 6 year old daughter's first day at school. She is in the first grade. At dinner, she told us she played a game with her friend at recess. She explained they turned it into a walking game. After I asked what she meant, she explained they were not allowed to play chasing games during recess.
After PE and recess cutbacks across the nation and in light of the national obesity epidemic, it would be preposterous to even imagine school districts banning these sorts of running games. Dodge ball has even been banned from the games children can play, even in PE class (if they're lucky enough to have that). Children have been playing these sorts of games since the beginning of history.
A quick search on the internet found many schools around the country forbidding children from playing chasing games:
- At McLean School, Playing Tag Turns Into Hot Potato
- Washington School Rules (Berkeley CA) bottom
- Quail Run Elementary (San Ramon, CA)
- Colorado School Bans Game of Tag on Playground: (Academy School District 20) Pikes Peak
- New Hampshire school bans students from playing 'tag' (Charlotte Avenue Elementary School)
- The School That Won't Let Students Play Tag or Hold Hands (Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School, British Columbia, Canada)
- N.Y. school bans balls at recess, cracks down on tag games over safety fears (Webber Middle School, Long Island, N.Y.)
- Nashua elementary school bans tag during recess (Nashua, NH)
- Schools Ban Tag, Cartwheels And 'Unstructured Play
After thinking more about this, I now remember picking up my daughter from kindergarten last year. I recall on several occasions seeing some overweight teachers yelling at kids to stop running- even if they were running a reasonable distance away from other kids. These same teachers also kicked these kids off of the playground equipment. In all fairness though, the teachers cannot be blamed for enforcing the rules.
Safety, violence prevention, bullying and potential lawsuits from parents are the main reasons schools have instituted restrictions. See article Worried about safety, schools restrict traditional games. School administrators claim chasing games are dangerous (author's note: we wouldn't want anyone to fall and scrape their knee!). It seems to me, schools should just worry about violence and be happy these kids just want to run, play tag, recreate, and be physically active on school grounds. There's a difference between fighting, groping, and bullying versus bumping, tripping, or falling into someone. Kids should be taught fair play and respect, not have childhood traditions taken away from them, least of all, running games such as tag. I'm sure glad when I was a kid, school administrators could stand up to some whining parent whose kid got a boo-boo on the playground. School administrators and policy makers have taken the easy road at our children's expense.
The real danger is not allowing our kids the opportunity for spontaneous and interactive play. I'm sure the policy makers have their rationale, but these rules further erode opportunity for our children to receive the suggested minimum hour per day of moderate to intense physical activity. Sure, children may be saved from a few bumps, bruise and scrapes along the way, but they will ultimately pay for these sorts of policies with their health and fitness later in life.
See detrimental effects of overprotecting kids: Risks are Essential for Children's Healthy Development