Children are always honest. Each day, when my own children get home from school, I always ask them, “How was your day?” They each inevitably reply “fine”. I then move on to my next question, “what was your favorite part of school today?” With a light pause, the answer is usually “recess” or “lunch”. As an educator, of course, I know my kids are doing more than just recess or lunch at school. It seems in some cases, their most memorable part of the day, is when they get to play.
Not every answer I receive from my children is the cliché answer of “recess”. Just the other day, my first grader came home ecstatic about a game they played in class. He described in detail the rules of the game, and what he learned. Research shows that play helps children develop new competencies that enhance confidence and the resilience they need to face future challenges (Ginsberg, 2007). Adding play to an educational setting, at home, and in school, will allow our children to improve. Play helps children develop their own interests and passions (pathways.org, 2020).
This year, we have all been facing changes in the educational setting. Many of us are doing at least a partial school at home. Our children are growing complacent. Parents may be experiencing stubbornness and refusal to do school work from their children. One way that can help relieve this stressful situation, is to add play. Schedule breaks for your children to ride their bikes, or play a game. Play will help give their working minds a break. Play helps with dexterity, cognitive thinking, creativity, and developing the Imagination (Ginsberg, 2007).
In school, adding hands-on activities and play can also help children use their cognitive and creative thinking skills. The other day, my students got down and dirty as they dug into the insides of a pumpkin. They squealed as their hands reached into the pumpkin and explored the feeling of the seeds. Students were given ample time to just play with the pumpkins. After the activity, the class was able to explain in detail what the pumpkin felt and looked like. They were also able to answer inquiry questions about layers of the pumpkin and make scientific assumptions about how a pumpkin grows. The students did not realize they were learning while they were playing. The learning happened naturally and without being forced.
As we continue through a school year that has been unlike any other, it is important to remember that this is a stressful time. Both Adults and children are being affected by stress and uncertainty. Play can help give children an opportunity to relax and better prepare their minds when it is time to sit down and do their school work. We can help our children create a more memorable learning experience by emphasizing the importance of play in their daily lives. When I look back at my childhood, I don’t remember the specific worksheets I did at school or at home. I remember the hikes I took with my mom, the basketball games with my brothers, and playing dolls with my cousin across the street. Let’s help out children build impressing memories of this unique time by adding play and hands-on experiences to their learning.
Bonneville Academy is a K-8 STEM school in Stansbury Park, Utah. Bonneville Academy will foster critical thinking and problem solving skills in a challenging, student-centered environment; by encouraging exploration in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Preparing students for success in our ever changing dynamic world.
Kenneth R. Ginsburg, The Committee on Communications, The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health Pediatrics January 2007, 119 (1) 182-191; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-2697
pathways.org (2020), Why Play is Important, retrieved from: https://pathways.org/why-is-play-important/