We Need To Let Our Kids Be Little -- At Home And At School

by Nicole Holladay
Two kids in art class with their teacher

“Let them be little.”

Those four little words are more than a song title or a trending hashtag. They’re important, and it is a phrase that schools should keep in mind.

I teach first grade. We have 20 minutes of recess. They spend almost 7 hours sitting. I have discussed—nay, argued with as much respect as I could muster— with our administration that this is not conducive to teaching six-year-olds. I even begged for an extra ten minutes so we could have two fifteen minute breaks.

The answer I received? “It is mandated that we are only allowed a 20 minute recess.”

I hit them with research about gross motor skills, attention, focus, and all of the other benefits of more unstructured play. I was told there is nothing that they can do and we would get in trouble if we were caught giving more recess. So, you’ll see us outside doing “outdoor learning” from time to time.


Unfortunately, recess isn’t the only problem. We are taking away free play in classrooms and any activity not deemed “standards based.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, teachers are wizards at connecting things to standards. However, should we have to be? Shouldn’t we be able to make a Groundhog Day hat just because it is fun? Isn’t it important that kids enjoy school? That they see the “silly” and “exciting” in it? That they get up in the morning and can’t wait to see what they will do at school?

Sure, we can make stations fun. We can make an engaging vocabulary game. But we should also be able to make a craft without panicking that admin will walk in and that our kids can’t tell them what standard they are working on.

Not only are we eliminating fun at school, but we aren’t giving these students valuable experiences that they might not be getting elsewhere. I am shocked when kids tell me they don’t have markers at home or have never made a necklace. Seeing a child use tape will blow your mind (like, seriously, Billy…you have to connect two things with tape. Putting it on one sheet of paper does not actually accomplish anything. Anyways, I digress…).

When asking what my students are going to be doing on a nice day, more often than not I get “I’m going to play video games” or “I’ll play on my iPad.” Many kids these days are not putting together puzzles, making art with glitter glue and feathers, or making masks for a play they created when they are at home. I know robots seem to be more and more entrenched in our lives, but I’m starting to be concerned that we are turning into robots ourselves.

We proudly walked out with our groundhog hats the other day, and were not questioned. However, I was ready with “We made them as part of the anticipatory set to creating our six-week weather tracking journals in which we will collect data and graph our results.”

When I run into admin in the hallway and they shoot me a “Where are the kids?” and I reply with a sarcastic “Ah, they’ve got some coloring pages, it’s fine” it hurts my heart a little because they know my kids wouldn’t just be coloring.

Parents, love the art. Hang it up. Display it proudly. Your child will feel important and your child’s teacher wins. Childhood wins. Happiness wins.