Slice of Life: Time to Play

Even though I believe in the power of play, when I see it in action, I wonder how much healthier students would be if we built it into the classroom. Not woven into an academic pursuit, but purposely placed to support the social-emotional development of children.

My classroom ended 2018 with board game time, honored in the way we honor any part of our academic day.  Many games were brought from home. Children had a choice as to who to play with and what to play.  If they didn’t want to play, they could choose to write or draw or read or take a break.

Watching them work together was remarkable. The child who has trouble getting along did and was happy. The quiet child participated taking on all roles required by the game. Children played outside of their friend groups.

The occasional squabble was worked out without adult intervention. Turns were taken. Children moved seamlessly from game to game, person to person.

And when it was done with all pieces picked up and put away, one student said, “We learned absolutely nothing today.”

To which I responded, “Did you learn about each other?”

“Oh, yeah!’ he said with a big smile. “We learned who was flexible and who was not.”

Knowing the limits of the people we interact with is essential. Yet these students, who have been together in a classroom for four months, did not know this about each other.  That is shocking.

My students showed me they understood how to play. They did not have to be taught how to negotiate, how to take turns, how to listen. They got that. But in the process of all of that play, they did learn subtle moves to get out of tense moments.  That social-emotional how-to is built in to play.

Classtime has socialization build into it with collaborative projects and partnership work, but little cooperative time is spent working outside academic confines, AKA play.

How much of our success in life, be it academic or work-related, requires an understanding of the person beyond the task?

Would more play increase student flexibility and understanding of each other?

If we play with the people we work with, how much better might our work be?

What might we learn about ourselves?

What if, we just took the time to play?


6 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Time to Play

  1. How wonderful that you gave your kids the time and space for play. The power of play could be used so much more at school, not only in early years but beyond.

  2. I needed this reminder. I try to build in a game day, but we just haven’t gotten to it lately. We should do this for our last day together this week. Thanks!

  3. I love this post. In kindergarten we make time for unstructured play, with student choice and adult support as needed. In a room with 5 and 6 year-olds, I am often called upon to help negotiate behavior struggles between friends. Interestingly, during playtime I am rarely needed; squabbles, if any are quickly resolved so play can continue. The nearly 70 days we have had together thus far has allowed kids to better understand each other, build trust, and find paths to successfully play together.

  4. “We learned absolutely nothing today.” Classic! I so enjoyed reading your slice today. Adding in intentional moments of play is so exhilarating, relaxing, and necessary – all at the same time. Thanks for sharing these moments of discovery and joy with us!

  5. I am totally borrowing the idea of game day for one of my classes next semester. Play is an important component of a capstone course I teach called The Creative Mind. I’d love to design a capstone on Play. I think college students would LOVE that!

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