Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Inspiration from the Blogosphere: Why Play?

Play is learning. It's how children (and adults) explore and learn about the world. Call it trial and error, problem solving, or investigation - it's learning by doing! Here are some links I read recently that help us think about why play should be at the core of what we are doing with children.

Children Should Learn Mainly Through Play Until Age Eight (The Guardian) - The Lego Foundations says to let kids play. "[E]arly play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy...." Play builds strong foundations for learning and helps us continue to build understanding. Let's let them play!

Wait! What Happened to Recess? (Not Just Cute) - Amanda is continuing her reading and reflection of What If Everybody Understood Child Development? "Designing a school day that is void of recess is at odds with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is ignorant of what we know from research is beneficial for children and for a positive learning environment, and disregards what we know about human development and what is needed for children to grow up physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy." Recess, unstructured play outdoors, allows children to feed their brains, rest from thinking, and prepare for more learning. Why should we NOT do it?

Why Is Play an Equity Issue? (Diversity and Equity Education for Adults) - Amanda of Not Just Cute referenced this article and I'm glad she did. After reading it, I pondered more about play or the lack of it in early childhood settings. Ijumaa Jordan writes, "The reality is that early education is segregated by race and class in the same way K-12 is." She notes that lower socio-economic preschool classrooms (usually with more racial minorities) typically have less resources or play materials and focus more on teacher-directed activities and formal assessments. Play should be available for all children. And those who may have “gaps” should have more play, not less.

Fourth Graders Make a Scientific Case for Recess (EdWords) - Two 10-year-olds explore how recess affects mood for their science fair project. "They concluded that more recess was related to better moods and that they were both happiest when doing more active projects at school." What I love about this story is that the children are working to find evidence to support a hypothesis. And, by doing this, are showing that play and investigation do lead to learning. Other research concludes that reduction or elimination of recess does not lead to better performance. "Kids need a break from the expectations our educational system places on them. Let them play a bit and they will be much better learners."

The Job of a Child (Boils Down to It) - "Part of the change that needs to occur in education is a shift in mindset about childhood. It has somehow been accepted that children must stop being the very things that make up who they are, simply because they are now of school age." We must cease this strange approach. Let's embrace who children are and what they do to help them become learning adults. I've always said that a child's work is playing. And playing equals learning. I hope we can get the classroom back to be a place for children as they are.

Is Play in Early Education Really Necessary? (EdWords) - "Children are born ready to learn. They naturally want to explore, move and figure out what they can do and what this world is all about." Children are geared to play. Their brains are ready to learn and develop by their experiences with the world. We need to ditch other types of "instruction" and embrace play.

Children Deserve to Learn from Play (The Daily News) - "Playing enhances language skills, risk management and problem-solving, significantly affecting emotional and mental well-being in ways traditional learning simply cannot address." Lawmakers, education advocates, reformers, and administrators need to look to play for building strong learners. We need to get back to who the children are.

Play. It's important. Why don't we all embrace it? That is really the question.

(I'm reading and reflecting on The Power of Play by David Elkind. Check out what I've been thinking and learning.)

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