One school in New Zealand asked that question and then spent several years observing kids as they played on the playground without any rules. And they found that “eliminating rules can actually be a good thing.”
According to New Zealand outlet TVNZ, “After Swanson Primary School in New Zealand got rid of rules during recess as part of a study, administrators saw a decline in rates of bullying, injuries and vandalism, as well as an increase in students’ ability to concentrate during class.”
Can you imagine what would happen if we eliminated rules on the playground here in the States? Yeah. I know what you’re thinking…chaos. In fact, according to the report, there was in fact chaos on the playground, but kids were actually safer. “The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school,” school Principal Bruce McLachlan told the outlet.
Think back to the days when YOU were a child playing on the playgrounds. For many of us (especially those who came of age in the 70’s/80’s), there were rarely adults around; KIDS made up the rules (and they often changed frequently!). We also negotiated conflict among ourselves. Those were the days of a parent telling us “Don’t come home till the street lights come on!” The Principal of this school says that he hasn’t “met an ex-child yet who does not fondly remember adventure on their own terms.”
What do YOU think? What would happen if you eliminated rules in your after school program or youth center? Maybe the first step is to eliminate one. Or maybe change the rules to: Have fun! Be Safe!
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.