To Keep Kids “Injury-Free” School Substitutes Wii for Recess

Hi Folks! This story comes to us by way of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which loves when kids make up their own games rather than them simply playing something pre-programmed. At this particular school, the superintendent is quoted as saying a desire to keep kids “out of trouble” and “injury-free” prompted the decision to give kids Wii time as opposed to FREE time for recess, once or twice a week. As I watched the video, I despaired about three  things.

1 – The fact that Wii is seen as the same thing as making up a game, even though there is no imagination or organization required.

2 – The fact that it is now DE RIGUEUR that we not show any children’s faces in a video. As if somehow that is damaging to them or us or someone somehow somewhere.

3 – The fact that the hopscotch game at this school is a pre-fab mat, placed on the ground.

I’m sure I am a little too sensitive to all these issues, but come on: Let kids run around! Let them use chalk. Let them make up their own games. Let them get away from the screen. And PLEASE quit worrying that every non-scripted moment outside = an injury waiting to spring. – L.

35 Responses

  1. I have to agree. Some Wii games are okay for rainy days (at home!), but I can’t imagine a school seriously thinking this is a good idea. Screen time is screen time, and too much is not really good for anyone.

  2. I got punched in the face by a brother who was ‘boxing’ on Wii Sports. Playing the Wii is NOT safe! Those children are in danger! Quick! Take away their Wii now! Replace it with a standardized test and educational videos!
    If you don’t see my sarcasm hand, you are blind.

  3. I’ve made joking references to this in the past, with all the restrictions on recess, but SERIOUSLY?
    Why not just turn the TV on to stupid cartoons and call it a day?

  4. If they’re only inside one or two days a week, then how would that affect their safety? Either playing outdoors is dangerous, in which case they should never do it, or it’s not, and they should’t be prevented from it. It’s like wearing your seat belt only five or six days of the week.

  5. This is ludicrous. The school should be ashamed! There is no substitue for free play. And how many injuries are they going to prevent? What, one broken arm? A scraped knee? Those are part of childhood. We cannot prevent accidents. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of arguing over whose turn it is to play the videogame. I can see someone hitting another kid in the eye with a controller! Dumb school. Glad my kids don’t go there.

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. When I first read it I thought for sure it was a hoax, that you were just joking around. “Educators” are actually in favor of this????

  7. Am I correct in interpreting this as saying all the children (indoor and out) HAVE to choose one of the schools preprogrammed “activities” during their entire recess time? No just running around AT ALL?

    What on earth. This is absurd.

  8. Huh? Their logic escapes me. Making them play inside 1 or 2 days a week keeps them accident free? What about the other days when their outside. What’s the point of keeping them “accident free” just 1 or 2 days a week.

    These stories constantly remind me how lucky we are with our public school here in Washington State. My elementary kids get 2 recesses a day (used to be three but they ended up dropping afternoon recess last year). They go out rain or shine unless it’s pouring or below freezing (which is very, very rare). It it’s raining too hard they run around the cafeteria or gym (depending on the time of day). There are balls and games set out but the kids are allowed to do what they want. The kids HATE indoor recess.

    My 1st grader was so excited on the first day when she was finally allowed on the one playground that is all monkey bars. Kindergarteners weren’t allowed to use it because… well it’s all monkey bars and high off the ground for them (there are monkey bars on the regular playground for them to use). My 5th grader is always coming home with bruises and scrapes he got on the playground. And they ALWAYS come home from school dirty, especially in the winter when it rains every day.

    Oh, and we’ve had numerous injuries involving the Wii since we got it in 2009. Someone is always getting hit or kicked or knocked over. And no matter how many times I tell them to use the strap they forget and end up throwing the controller at someone (so far the TV has escaped injury). The Wii would be a cool distraction during the random indoor recess but to force kids to have indoor recess for their own safety is idiotic.

  9. My kids got a Wii for Christmas. I encouraged my mother in law to get it. They don’t own any video games at all, and we live in Ohio, where winters can be….rainy and muddy and icky and cold, and not enjoyable outside. I thought they would be super psyched. Nope. Played it twice, and have not asked to play again. They’d rather have indoor recess, if it came to it:)

  10. @Jen Connelly, I used to teach in public schools (also in WA), and I totally agree. The kids should be going outside unless it’s completely unbearable. Not only do the kids hate indoor recess, the teachers hate it, too. There is a noticeable difference in the classroom after an outdoor recess vs. an indoor one. The kids don’t get their outlet and can’t focus on anything. Trying to teach after an indoor recess is basically pointless. The kids NEED time outside!

    When I taught a kindergarten class, I would take the kids out myself, even if “indoor” recess had been declared. I made sure everyone had a raincoat on, brought a bin of jumpropes and balls, and had them play under the covered area on the playground. Otherwise, the kids were a mess if they were cooped up all day. I lost some planning time when I chose to supervise them myself, but it was worth it.

  11. Besides the whole moronic idea that Wii can substitute for real play or real exercise, just how many consoles and games did this school buy?

    Would it not be better to have them play outside, and use the money for textbooks, and other much needed supplies. Haven’t we been hearing for years that money is tight?

    All through elementary school, we played foothockey, a combo between hockey and soccer, using a tennis ball. 3 for a buck still at the dollar store. Didn’t matter if it was hot, cold, muddy, wet, or a foot of snow on the ground, we still played.

    The real parents at this school should be demanding the termination of the person responsible for this. Retarding the emotional, physical, and mental growth of the kids, and misuse of public funds.

  12. My daughter’s school has gotten to the point where they won’t have recess (even in the gym) if it’s ‘likely’ to rain—even though the playground is about fifteen feet from the nearest school door. And we don’t live in the desert Southwest; we live in the Midwest, where rain is a pretty common thing. And cold? If it’s under 45 degrees, you can kiss recess goodbye. So much for getting fresh air and sunlight.

  13. I could understand if the school said “outside is too unsafe and we are only playing Wii.” I don’t agree with the sentiment but it at least shows some coherent thought process – outside bad; must stay inside. The outside is unsafe, but only on Tuesday, thought process just boggles my mind. Do kids only break bones on Tuesdays? Does the school nurse have Tuesday off and the rest of the school administration doesn’t want to deal with any possibility of injury that day? Making kids stay inside to play video games one day a week for safety reasons just makes no sense.

    * I picked Tuesday randomly. No particular day of the week for Wii is given.

  14. I’ve use the Wii to teach math, as a starter for a writing activity (for example used down hill skiing, which our kids don’t have access to, so they could understand part of a story and write a response to it), as a reward, and as part of Rain Day Recess. Some PE programs in the area have used Wii’s as a warm up (they do say a dance or yoga game.) One student actually uses the Wii – the other kids follow along on from the projected image.

    A couple of years ago one of my students broke her leg. Coach set up the Wii in her office. The child learned the rules of volleyball with her class. When it was time to play the office was one of the courts. They had X’s on the floor for the able bodied kids and the girl with a broken leg sat in a chair. The able body kids rotated in and out. This way the girl got to some exposure to the game in a safe way, without having to sit on the sidelines and just watch.

  15. Oh about rainy day recess – because this has been an issue before. I’m on the Gulf Coast. We aren’t talking about it drizzling in the NW, and the kids having rain coats. We are talking about lightening, thunder, and ankle deep water.

  16. Surprised to see it was close to where I live, about an hour northward in armstrong county. My kids’ school just put in some nice playground equipment with the lines for the kickball field painted on the blacktop. I was a little surprised to see that and in the video were the kids there playing hopscotch with beanbags? I thought you were supposed to use a small stone.

  17. Have a look at the work by Zhao Yong (he has a blog, so google) on the decline in creativity and the growing intolerance fof everything that goes with creativity, including free form anything, and creative people, who tend to be more adventurous and less compliant.

    He blames standardised testing but everything is spiralling in on itself and it is very, very scary.

    I think this rubbish is one more manifestation of a the general withering.

  18. Ms Herbert,
    With all these weather restrictions placed on recess, that in my day were never there, we went outside no matter what. Yes even in thunderstorms, and to this day I still love a good storm, Mother Nature at her best.

    But if we teach the kids that you do not have to go outside when it is too hot, cold, wet, slippery or whatever, are we not attempting to raise a bunch of pansies. And before you jump down my throat, we have seen evidence of this in the work enviroment, where new hires and student hires have said they shouldn’t have to work outside because of rain, snow, ice, heat and cold.

    They do not last past the first time they protest. We work outside no matter what the conditions. Now I am not saying that the kids should go out in extreme conditions, but 5 degrees below freezing is not extreme, by any means.

    Personally, any child or parent that protests outdoor recess based on weather, should be told tough luck, it is life, so suck it up princess.

  19. I know this is going to sound way out there…….but getting hurt, be it cut, bruise, scrape, sprain, broken bone, or whatever, are these not part of growing up?

    Not every kid gets hurt, and usually the ones with the more severe injuries are the ones that can deal with them. By this I mean, the boy that breaks his arm on the jungle gym, by going too hard and fast, is usually the boy that when the initial pain wears off, thinks it is cool, and wears his cast like a badge of honour?

    “Scars heal, glory fades…and all we’re left with are the memories made. Pain hurts but only for a minute. Your life is short, so go on and live it.”, from a country song, but damn it is so relevant.

    I would not trade any of my injuries during childhood. Each one is attatched to a valued memory. Some are from stupid stunts trying to impress the girls, some are from sports, but wouldn’t trade em for anything.

    Again if we do not allow the children to participate in activities because of the risk involved, how will they handle it as adults.

    Intentional body contact was removed from the younger age groups in hockey. When they got older and were permitted to play the sport the way it is intended, they had no training or idea how to handle bodychecking properly. Injuries rose. They were bigger, faster and stronger, with no idea how to properly throw a bodycheck, and absolutely no idea on how to get hit. Yes knowing how to take a hit is just as important as knowing how to throw a hit.

    Do I want my kids to break an arm, or get a concussion…no. But I will not stop them from doing what they want, because there is a risk it could happen.

  20. I wonder how much of this fear of childhood injury is related to parental inconvenience. Because my child having stitches in her foot was damn inconvenient for a couple weeks. It required time off work and curtailed our activities. It was certainly not unbearable, but was inconvenient nonetheless.

    I think that plays a part in the anti-illness obsession as well. Chicken pox and the flu may be minor for a healthy child but the parents then have to miss at least a week of work. In a world where both parents usually work, and one kid getting chicken pox generally means all the kids get chicken pox one right after another so extends much more than a week, time may not be available.

  21. “…with a flour sack cape
    Tied all around his head
    He’s still jumpin’ off the garage
    And will be till he’s dead
    All these years the people said
    He’s actin’ like a kid
    He did not know he could not fly
    So he did” GUY CLARK, “THE CAPE”

  22. I agree with Donna. Also workplaces sometimes place stress on you. There is little concept of convalescense these days. A friend had swine flu a few years back and her boss was really upset their family was quaranteened. For the rest of the year she feared her kids getting sick as she knew it would be so hard to get the time off.

    my four kids went through a bout of vomiting bug where one would be sick for two days then fine for a day or two then the next kid would get it… went on for weeks. sometimes I’m glad I am a stay at home mum and a childhood illness, bone break or the like would be bareable for our family where for others it is a huge dilemma.

  23. Gosh, any day I am at work at the moment I see kids heading for the medical room covered in blood from bleeding lips or noses, legs etc. Then five minutes later they’re back outside having fun again, unless they’ve actually broken something, which is fairly rare. Give kids like I work with at the moment a Wii, and they’d end up stuffing the controller up someone’s nose, using it as a stick for head-bopping, or hurling it through the TV in frustration (and we only have one of those anyway, I think…). Where is this school going to find enough TVs, let alone Wiis, to keep a school group occupied? What a waste of money, and probably a waste of time if injury is the main concern, unless they have very, very sweet children in their charge…..

    Come to think of it, wouldn’t supervision of something like this be far more timeconsuming than simple playground suervision? Mind-boggling….

  24. This is definitely one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve ever read about on your blog, and there have been some doozies.

  25. I’ve lurked here a while, with blood occasionally boiling. So here goes.

    This is asinine. Period. Paragraph.

    I was in elementary school in 1950. I recall distinctly what we did before school, and at recess twice a day. Both boys and girls played these games.

    Raining too much, we played inside in gym or auditorium or on school porches or portico. We had to be more careful, and mostly play marbles and quiet games because the floor was hard wood or concrete.

    Otherwise, self-organized play on dirt and grass.

    For major exercise:

    – chase, football and baseball (very free-form), Red Rover, keep-away.

    – spin the merry-go-round fast enough for several kids to hang on with hands only and fly around without feet touching the ground,

    – see-saw catapult. See how far you can jump off the end of a see-saw when several kids jump on the other end. Yeah, we broke a couple of see-saws that way.

    – wild mystery chases on monkey bars. These were free-form, sometimes a variant of king of the mountain.

    – king of the mountain — one kid starts as king, takes the top of a big pile of dirt and other kids try to throw him off. The one who throws the king off gets to be king, etc.

    – horse/rider wars — little kid rides on big kid’s shoulders, and teams of two wrestle to knock each other off. We’d sometimes have several teams of horses and riders going at once. The team that managed to keep one horse and rider off the ground won.

    – tugs of war that usually devolved into several kids swinging one kid around hanging on to the end of the rope with his feet off the ground.

    – swings — see how high you can swing, then “bail out” and see how far away you can land. That’s why the swing sets were anchored in concrete.

    More quiet, or at least less running around:

    Tops: Draw a circle in the dirt, put in one for dibs, and keep the ones you can knock out and keep spinning (if you’re playing for keeps, which different groups did).

    Marbles: Similar, but shooting marbles out of circle. Sometimes for keeps.

    Mumblety-peg: two players stand opposite at about two arm lengths with feet together. One throws pocket knife at a place outside of other player’s two feet. If knife sticks in ground, the other player has to move one foot to where the knife stuck. Now that player throws knife. Repeat until one player can’t stand up because his feet are too far apart.

    Pick-up sticks: good for rainy days on the school porch before school.

    Dradle: Sometimes for keeps. Usually betting marbles or tokens we made up. Not pennies though — they were actually worth something. Movies were $.10 on Saturday. And this was in a mostly Goy school in the south.

    Eraser fights (chalk board erasers) in the classroom, but this was frowned upon mightily because it made a major mess.

    And any other strange games we could dream up.

    The only thing the teachers absolutely wouldn’t allow was throwing rocks. We tried to weasel around that by having dirt clod wars, but they stopped those too.

    I remember hearing adults in those years saying that nothing good would ever come out of the NEA. They were right.

  26. What would happen if the parents just wrote letters stating they do not give permission for their kids to play video games at school?

    Take a look at some of the packages these games come in, they warn of the possibility of seizures.

  27. “…her and other parents”? Don’t journalist/broadcast majors have to take English in college?? (Sorry, I got distracted from the topic.)

    Some of my best memories from grade school are about recess. It’s sad that playing the Wii is even an option.

  28. I sent my son to day camp over summer. It seemed like almost every time I came to get him, there was some sort of “screen time” going on. I mean, I can do that at home for free! Don’t give him that option. He has ADHD and his preferred method of hyperfocus is the TV.

    Oh, and I asked about video games there and they said “Oh, if we have video games it’s something active like the Wii. Well, I have a Wii at home too. I know this is South Texas and most of the summer was in the 100F’s, but there HAS to be something better than Wii and videos to entertain these kids. Day camp wasn’t cheap and I’m a stay at home mom with a 2-4 month old over last summer. I hired you to do what I couldn’t last summer and that was to keep my older child entertained. (and before anyone asks why I didn’t keep him at home and let him play by himself, none of the neighborhood kids came out to play until after 6pm and someone called CPS on me because I was sending my son out to play by himself while I was in the house tending to the baby.)

  29. Since getting back to school three weeks ago, our school has had the terrible experience of two children accidentally falling off of the monkey bars and breaking their arms.

    Our principal’s response? An e-mailed memo reminding staff that while childhood injuries are a part of life, it is up to us to be vigilant in our duties, and to be ask children to stop playing games that risk their safety. To use our judgement.

    No shutdown of recess. No draconian measures. Just a reminder to be more watchful and rely on common sense.

    I’m glad I work where I do!

  30. If it makes you feel better, this is an actual article that was in one of the freebie today newspapers today in my city (the one to read on the transit commute).

  31. German elementary schools have a 25-minute recess in the middle of the school day. The kids go out in every weather condition except for pouring rain or hail. In Germany everyone says that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Each grade has a designated day for playing football (soccer). On the other days the kids play various ball or tag games. In the winter the kids will build snow forts and have snowball fights. When a kid hurts himself on the playground, the teacher on recess duty sends him inside for a band-aid. If the hurt kid is a new first grader, an older student will accompany him and assist him in washing the cut and getting a band-aid. On very rainy days the kids had indoor recess in their classrooms. They would move their desks and chairs to the side of the room and then do something active.

    Earlier this summer my son went to a week-long sleepover camp. He came home with a large bruise on his right thigh. When the kids were out on a bike ride, my son decided that the kids in front of him were going too slowly and he wanted to pass them. He wasn’t watching where he was going, hit a small metal post, and fell off his bike. The counselors gave my son a set of crutches and told him that if his leg got worse they would take him to the local hospital. After a day on crutches, he was again able to fully participate in all of the camp’s activities. When my husband and I picked him up from camp, he showed us his bruise like it was a badge of honor.

  32. Hopscotch on a mat is supposed to be safe? As someone who smashed my tailbone slipping on a mat as a kid, with an aged care physio in the family, I can say that the risk of tripping/slipping on a commercialised colourful hopscotch MAT far outweighs the health risks of… er… chalk!

  33. And kids are supposed to go through life thinking that falling or getting a scratch is the end of the world? What will they do if something really bad happens? Kids are supposed to get injured…that is life. I think the real issue is that it is easier to watch and see what is doing in a small indoor space, than a large outdoor area. And…what kids will want to come inside after recess and do work? While putting them on a screen for recess is numbing and keeps them in the “drone zone”.

  34. It’s funny, because I actually suffer the same problem as a grown-up. I have been skiing for over 40 years. It’s one of the few activities I do as a grown-up where I feel fearless. It motivates me to keep in shape year-round, and I am much more active because I want to be able to ski in the winter. 3 years ago, I had a fall and tore my anterior cruciate ligament. I had surgery to repair it and am almost good as new. However, many of my friends and acquaintances take this as a sign that skiing is dangerous, and that I should not be doing it. I get almost daily warnings about the dangers of skiing all winter. Many of the people giving me the warnings are not very physically fit, and several of them have had bad falls in their homes with injuries. Others suffer from diabetes or arthritis related to being out of shape. However, all they see is small risk of something bad happening to me while skiing, and totally miss the much bigger risk both physically and mentally to locking yourself in the house all day.

  35. I had a hopscotch mat when I was a kid and it was awesome. We put it in the basement so we could play in the winter. I suppose we could have invented ice hopscotch instead!

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