5 Reasons We Should Be Playing In The Classroom!
What is play?
“Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning” – Diane Ackeman
As a Teaching, Learning and Play Specialist I am often asked “What is play?” and I often reply simply, that play is fun! Play is learning, play is everything! Play allows us to escape the structure of our day to day lives and immerse ourselves in pleasure and enjoyment. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research” and it is essential to children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. I am an advocate for the power of play in learning and have put together 5 reasons we should be playing more in the classroom – no matter what age:
1. Development of self-worth
When we truly allow children the time, freedom and space to play we are truly allowing them to learn. Play develops a child’s sense of self-worth by giving them a sense of their own abilities. It gives children a safe space to investigate, create, test, problem solve and hypothesise without a formal given structure to follow. We are allowing children to use their natural curiosity to explore what is around them, ask more questions, test theories and knowledge and take risks.
Happy children = happy learners. Play helps children gain confidence, boost their self-esteem, build relationships and relieve stress. It is also crucial for their emotional development and allows them to cope with emotions such as frustration, anger or fear in a situation they can control. It is the perfect opportunity for them to practise empathy, compassion, understanding and build up their resilience. By playing, children can learn to cope with their emotions and find solutions to situations they face. Children will not learn if their mental health is poor, play has a positive impact on children’s mental health.
3. Experience it to remember it!
Research shows us that children learn best through first-hand, active & multi-sensory learning. Play allows children to engage their creative side and escape rigid boundaries. When children are playing, they are often intrinsically motivated and leading their own learning through play. If it’s intrinsically motivating to them, and they have first-hand experience of it, they are more likely to remember it!
Play enables children to learn social skills which are crucial to their life. Children learn to share, lead, turn-take and co-operate without even realising they are learning. Play enables children to practise the communication and language skills they have learnt both verbally and non-verbally. Through play children learn to detect body language, affection, concern and a whole range of emotions which are crucial for their receptive language understanding.
5. It’s fun!
Adults often talk about ‘play’ being separate to ‘learning’, but play is learning. Play can be interwoven into any subject, in any year group. Games are a great way to include learning through play in KS2. Child initiated time in EYFS and KS1 is essential to give children time to apply what they have learnt and strengthen the connections in their brain leading to healthy brain development.
Allowing children the time, space and freedom to play in schools will not only benefit their social and emotional well-being, but will have a positive impact on their academic attainment too. It is now more important than ever to ensure that children are allowed to exercise their right to play in our classrooms!
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