Having zero tolerance policies in schools is a truly horrible way to treat children. It can blunt curiosity and punish severely for minor infractions, combine such oppressive control with bizarre rules (like no playing schoolyard games) and you’ll bored, agitated and disengaged kids. When children aren’t able to express themselves in more traditional ways (like play), they tend to lash out.
With all of that in mind, a school in Aukland decided to toss out the rules. The results were a decrease in bullying and an increase in attentive learning!
Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.
“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.”
Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.
But this wasn’t a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.
AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.
“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”
Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.