As I child I loved to play. Countless hours were spent building things with paper and cardboard, creating sand castles at the beach, riding bikes, playing football or just running around for no apparent reason. Children love play and it is a central component of their social and emotional development. Important qualities such as patience, compromise, creativity, focus, critical thinking, problem solving, determination, resilience, and resourcefulness, to name a few, are developed through play. Not only are these qualities vital to success, but they also represent elements that cannot be tested.
As much as I loved play I think I enjoy watching how it not only impacts, but also how important it is to my own children. In many ways my children engage in play in unique ways based on their personalities. My son, is an avid gamer who loves Minecraft and the creative freedom it fosters. On many nights it is common to see him with his earbuds in, collaborating and communicating with children his age from across the world utilizing thought and strategy to create a product that matters.
My other son, like most children, has a passion for sport like rugby, football, Nerf gun battles and anything physical. He has his creator side as well, when he goes into the world of Lego and creates sanerios for all the superheros he reads about in graphic novels.
Play has a magical effect, at times, of taking away some of the stress and pressures of life. It is in these carefree moments that children and adults develop and enhance certain skills that will play a huge role in personal and professional development. I find myself reflecting on the seemingly endless positive impacts that play has on children and yet it is being cut from schools across the world. Ask any young child what was their favorite part of the school day and they will respond in no specific order – Break, PE, or art.
Our children need and deserve more play, not less! Break in particular is needed not just in our youngest grades, but also even through the middle and high school grades. Read about why high school should be more like kindergarten and the point becomes clearer. Play has to be valued in school and its integration should be a priority if student learning and achievement are the goal. Why you ask? Research has found that play develops students in four ways: physical, cognitive, social, and emotional.
In order to create schools that work for children a concerted effort has to be made to break up the monotony of formal learning that places a great deal of stress on students. Structured and unstructured play should be integrated into every school schedule, regardless of the age group of the children. Below are a few ideas:
- Add more breaks (children need itand the benefits are clear)
- Integrate makerspaces
- Replace study halls with play options and open choice
- Integrate games such as chess, checkers, Trivial Pursuit to common areas
- Add time to lunch. With a full length lunch period at OIWS (40 minutes) students regularly go outside and play or visit the liberary
- Develop a play-based mentality in school
These are just a few ideas to implement the power of play into the school day. Students should be excited to attend school and learn. By integrating more play we can begin to create a culture where more students want to learn. Once that is achieved the possibilities are endless.