Last year, I would pick up my daughter from her first year at preschool at the end of recess every day to find her playing alone. I became concerned she didn't have any playmates. As I discuss with other parents, I realized that I wasn't the only one who had concerns. Parents worried their child were in a "clique". Others felt their child was shy and overly clingy to the playground aides. Some felt like their children were even starting early bullying/exclusionary activities toward other children. Something needed to change.
I started thinking that organized group games might be solution. Then I was introduced to Playworks Portland by fellow mom Jen Barth and began volunteering in a local elementary school. They taught their values, how to run games, fun group management tools, and they graciously shared it all with me to use it with my daughter’s preschool.
During the summer, I created a parent volunteer program for recess one day a week and in the fall, with the support of my school's administration, I started the GARP (Games at Recess – Parents) Program. After concluding our first year, I can easily say that it's been a complete success. I have seen kids that previously played by themselves participate, those who were deemed "shy", those in the "cliques", and those kids who have lots of friends who bring their other friends along with them, all play seamlessly together with lots of laughter and enthusiasm.
And my daughter has really benefited. As one of the regular participants, she now knows how to play a whole host of different games, has learned lots of different skills (ball throwing, kicking, etc.), and most importantly, has gotten to know many more kids on the playground better, which has allowed her to have more playmate choices the rest of the week when GARP is not there. Mission accomplished.
Guest blogger Melodie Isgro is a part-time Urgent Care physician, full-time Mom to daughter, Lila, and a great believer that one individual can make a difference.
See how Melodie did it – Six steps to start your own preschool Games at Recess Program.
Does your preschool support group play at recess?