Have Twins, Will Travel

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused

Somerville, Mass – As a follow-up to my previous post about Free Play, here is another article from the Atlantic about an interesting (and not necessarily intuitive) discovery made by an American teaching in Finland.

It’s no secret that I think the Finns have a lot of things figured out, especially when it comes to childcare and education. The Finnish education system is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world, if not the best. There are a few things about it that may surprise you:

(1) Kids do not start school until they are seven years old. Seven! It must be said that most children are in childcare–known as “kindergarten”–from an earlier age. So this certainly provides some of the same structure that you might find at an American preschool. But still, the formal schooling begins at age seven.

(2) As detailed in the Atlantic article, kids spend 15 minutes out of every hour at recess–that is, outside, engaged in totally undirected free play. By comparison, in the US, many schools allow kids 30 minutes of recess for the entire day. Tim Walker, the teacher, claims that letting off steam on a very regular basis allows the kids to concentrate better when they return to their studies.

At the very end of the article, he takes his claim one step further. “It’s free-play,” he argues, “that gives students the opportunity to develop social competence. During these times, they not only rest and recharge—they also learn to cooperate, communicate, and compromise, all skills they need to succeed academically as well as in life.”

Want to hear more from Tim Walker? Read his blog Taught By Finland.


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