At the school my daughter will attend in a few years, recess is only 20 minutes long. I have fond school memories of conquering multiple snow hills during recess, and of wishing that I had more time for it. According to the National PTA, my school boy desire was a healthy one -- 20 minutes is not enough.
Today I am an educator working with multiple youth programs. Recently, while on a mentoring site visit with a partner organization, I witnessed two contrasting events:
It was a cold evening, and a mentor was teaching a couple of youth how to skip rope double-dutch style. The kids were laughing, learning, and clearly having fun. In another room, a mentor sat with a mentee asking some questions about her life. The mentee was clearly disengaged. The difference between the two scenes was stark to me.
Out-of-school time can supplement what happens in school but it doesn’t have to mirror it. We have the ability to create opportunities for youth that include healthy relationships. In my own program planning and design, I often forget to include “play-time” and sometimes reflect why some sessions aren’t very successful.
Research supports the connection between play and mentoring. It shows that the most effective matches between mentors and mentees occur when the mentor plays with the mentee – even the adolescents. Basically, playing with them showed a personal investment beyond the committed time that permitted a positive mentoring relationship to exist. Mentoring trainings themselves should encourage relaxed play time.
Too often, we fear that scheduling downtime at an event can lead to trouble, but actually, permitting unrestricted play is essential for our kids to be genuinely invested in our programming. Play is healthy for adults, too. By taking this a step further and embedding play for our youth, we create that interaction that will allow for high quality mentoring to take place … but you have to play first. So, dust off your checker skills, make an attempt to jump some rope, and play with those kids!
Do you build play time into your programming? Do you struggle with always having to justify it? How do you resolve that?
You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.