I’m sure that I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but more and more research is coming out with a clear message about childhood: Children learn through play. This is how human beings are programmed to learn. And yet, more and more, free play and outdoor play are disappearing from our school’s schedules.
The complexities of role-play provide cognitive and social benefits that we cannot provide for the children when we teach them compartmentalized skills in math, phonics, and other stand-alone subject areas. When children are given time to engage in free play, following their own interests and curiosities, they become enthusiastically engrossed in observation, hypothesis, problem-solving, etc. They develop vital social skills and language skills, they develop their imagination and take great pride in their work. When my Grade 1 son comes home from school and I ask him what he did that day, he still answers that he “just played all day”. Yet he understands concepts like multiplication (which I certainly didn’t know anything about in Grade 1), and he demonstrates incredible emotional intelligence that I must admit has not all come from me.
Of course there will always be things that we need to teach TO the students. But as you are planning this week, take some time to think about how much of your classroom experience is teacher-initiated and how much is provoking students to create, imagine, and play.
And for those of you all doing that, you probably have parents in your class who need convincing. This article is what inspired today’s post, and it could be a good resource to share with your parents.
How do you encourage child-initiated play in your classroom?