Having Fun Yet? Learning Through Play @CDNIS
As I walk around our school each day, I see happy, smiling and confident children. What makes them so happy? Why do our halls, classrooms and playgrounds ring with laughter and animated conversations? It brings to mind the many opportunities students and staff have to enjoy learning, including through play.
Do students of all ages play? Are students allowed to “play” in school? How is play related to learning? It may be tempting to only define “play” as something that is the opposite of “work.” However, we can learn a different perspective when we ask children what they think play is. Michael Follett reports that one child defined play as “What I do when everyone else has stopped telling me what to do.” Building on that, we can see that play is the “work” of children, a process that is child-directed, spontaneous and enjoyable. “Play is the thing that children do – all the time and everywhere.” (Colin Ward)
In our school, it is easy to see many types of play exhibited daily. When students participate in ASA, PE, sports or play football at recess, they are involved in body and movement play. Through these experiences, these students are learning to be innovative, flexible, adaptable and resilient. Social play is evident at recess, lunch and throughout the hallways as students use their imagination to play and converse with others. Performing Arts class, assemblies, Spotlights and Student Showcase are just a few of the many times that children are demonstrating storytelling play. The play opportunities around our school are truly endless.
In an article by Valerie Strauss, she explains how play teaches academic skills, advances language development, promotes perspective taking, teaches conflict resolution, and increases a child’s capacity for planning. Other benefits of play include fostering high levels of language comprehension, increasing problem solving skills, enhancing curiosity, reducing aggression, increasing empathy and cooperation, improving emotional and social adjustment, and overall higher intellectual competence.
The following are suggestions on how we can support our child(ren) with play:
- Give permission to play without dismissing it as frivolous or a waste of time, or restricting it out of an unreasonable fear of safety.
- Provide the time to play, including periods where TVs/computers are turned off.
- Find play spaces, possibly outdoors, that contain opportunities for wonder, excitement and the unexpected.
- Provide materials that facilitate play, something Simon Nicholson coined as “loose parts”.
Lauren Laverne (in this article) shares that while life can often be quite serious, new research is demonstrating the mental health benefits of making the effort to approach life with a playful attitude. And it is not just for children! Many adults know the substantial benefits of using play in the midst of their busy lives: relieving stress, stimulating the mind, boosting creativity, improving relationships, and keeping that young and energetic feeling. Are we being a positive example to our children, of enjoying life to it’s fullest? In that spirit, what a perfect weekend to have the Sevens competition in town!