Play is not a word you hear echoed in the hallways or at professional development meetings in schools today but the words test scores, accountability and rigor can be heard in every building across our school districts.  Children are even beginning to use them naturally as well.  Where has play gone and can it co-exsit in a child’s everyday learning environment?  If I had an opportunity to answer, I would say, “YES!”

As adults, we forget how to play or, in the sense, forget how to enjoy the experience of play.  We would need to let go a bit and free our mind of the long list of must-dos and slow down and really tune into something or someone.  A young kindergartener at my school recently opened my eyes to really what is happening in our schools these days.  The student was in my classroom for a visit after not being “successful” in his classroom.  He walked into my room and his eyes lit up like giant saucers.  He said, “who’s room is this?  There are games and toys.  We don’t play at school, we learn!”  I responded, “It is my room and I have found a way to do both…play and learn at the same time. I love to play.”  He giggled and said, “You’re funny!  Adults don’t play and kids don’t either at school.  We can only play at recess!”  Later that afternoon, that kindergartner took his mother on the tour of the coolest room in school…my classroom.  Heartstring tug here!

The complexity of a child’s honesty and needs are so raw and we need to listen.  They are all crying to play and collaborate but in a unique and natural way.  Through play they learn how to get along with others, share, compromise, collaborate, and more.  Children need to move, experiment and make mistakes with laughter and curiosity.  Somehow they are now reading beyond their years in books they often can not comprehend and parents/education systems are hounding us to challenge them and focus on standardized testing to measure a child’s growth…only these tests do not in anyway measure their social and emotional growth.

We, as a society, can redefine play in schools. What it looks like at recess and in the classroom. Both are possible and will bring children together.  We need to teach them to fail, to challenge themselves and to be curious about the world.  Over the next few months I will be sharing lessons on how we can bring play back into teaching and see how it can lead to stronger resilient learners in the future.  Join me and share your ideas too!


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