The Importance of Play

Discussion in 'Kindergarten' started by KinderCowgirl, Mar 20, 2011.

  1. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Mar 20, 2011

    The Importance of Playing to Learn

    I thought this was an interesting article making the argument for incorporating creativity into play in early childhood classrooms.
     
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  3. Silmarienne

    Silmarienne Cohort

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    KC, thanks for posting this. I also am a huge advocate of allowing kids play time in school!! We are so pressured to squeeze in more academics and, I feel, squeeze out kids' creativity. A baby learns to talk and walk and hold a spoon by playing, not by being taught. K should be the transition between natural and formal learning, they shouldn't be expected to sit down immediately at a desk and start formal learning.
     
  4. Pacificpastime

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    I agree completely. Let the kids be kids, trial and error is a great way to learn. Kids learn this way when they play. Learn by doing is a great phrase that doesnt only apply to adults but children as well.
     
  5. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    My only hesitation with more play time in school is that play time can easily happen at home, while specialized academic support can't as readily. I am absolutely a huge supporter of play and unstructured interaction broadly defined, but I think there are other times to let this happen, if it meant cancelling core academic activities. Sort of like adults and exercise - it's hugely important, but doesn't need to happen during the workday - can happen in the evenings/mornings.

    I will say, though, that play time can be an incredibly helpful time to teach social skills, and even academic skills, in a natural setting - it would be a loss of opportunity in this area.
     
  6. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    I love it! Play doesn't have to mean what it does at home. Play can be very involved and very driven. I love to let the children think on their own, and problem solve....the collaboration alone should get an award! Kudos to you.
     
  7. Blue

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    I was taught that PS and K should offer activities for play that were not usually offered in the home. Not many homes offer water tables, easels, enough legos to build a city, or the opportunity to experience social development with a large group of kids.
     
  8. KinderCowgirl

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    But you know what their play at home today is-- watch tv and play video games. It's a different era-my sister and I could spend hours playing with our paper dolls on the staircase-- kids today aren't like that-if it's not animated, they just can't entertain themselves.

    I'm not saying fingerpaint all day. I'm saying play to learn. Workstations are hands-on ways of learning, having them make up their own games for an objective. Kids are not taught to be creative today (and yes, kids need to be taught that). They are told what color to color the picture. They copy what's on the board for their writing. We take standardized tests in Kinder here! :eek:hmy: That's what we are supposed to prepare them for, what our focus is supposed to be-it's just ridiculous.

    I will never forget a 1st Grade teacher telling me that by January our whole day should be in our seats doing paper-pencil activities to prepare them for 1st Grade (I, of course, had to respectfully disagree with that). But it's the way many schools are going. They don't have blocks, they don't have art, they don't sing songs (one of our K teachers was made fun of by other teachers because the kids sang too much :(), they don't play games-kids don't even know how to play any of the games that were standard when we were little. I'm just saying you can incorporate those things and still connect it to learning.
     
  9. TiffanyL

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    But your statements seem to be geared towards ALL kids and I don't agree that that's the case.

    My daughter plays and the neighborhood kids all play with her. They are quite the creative group. Of course, after a couple of hours, you may see them with their Nintendos again....then they get bored and go back to playing something else.

    A park is right next to my elementary school, in a very tough area of town, with a tough group of kids. On any given day, I can stop by school and see many of our students at the park...playing basketball, swinging on the swings....many of them unsupervised without parents/adults...but still outdoors playing away.

    I think you are right that there are SOME kids who are always plopped in front of a TV or some piece of technology and never do anything else.

    I don't see that as the majority, however. I also think parents are doing the best they can.
     
  10. KinderCowgirl

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    It absolutely wasn't meant as "all" kids--just the trend I've noticed with my kiddos. When I ask them what they did last night-those are the 2 most common answers-and I teach GT kids! They are also busy with sports and dance classes-but those are very structured activities. I just think it's sad so many Kinder programs are prohibiting a really good strategy by discouraging play and creativity for the more structured academics that used to be reserved for upper grades.

    It also was absolutely not a criticism of parents-I was just simply saying that if the argument is: don't spend time on these activities in class because they are doing them at home-- that actually may not be the case.
     
  11. EdEd

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    KinderCowgirl - I definitely see your points, especially the one about the structured play incorporating learning. My comments were more toward completely unstructured play. I also agree with Tiffany - I've worked predominantly in very low-income schools, and often because of home environments and dense housing, kids are outside playing far too often, if anything! They definitely don't lack in opportunity for unstructured play. Of course, there are definitely some that do spend way too much time in front of video games - you are right.

    I guess my main point is not advocating against play by any means, but just saying I wouldn't forego core academic instruction to maintain play. However, I do realize that breaks are necessary, so I'm by no means advocating taking away recess, or other short breaks that are important to keep kids fresh.
     
  12. halpey1

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  13. SpecialPreskoo

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    I wrote a grant to get toys for my classroom and how their were educationally beneficial.
     
  14. puff5655

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    EdEd, I don't think there's such a thing as too much time spent playing outside! I spent pretty much my whole childhood out there and I turned out okay ;-)

    As for kids getting play time at home, that's not true everywhere. Like others said, they are mainly watching tv and playing video games all night in most homes nowadays.

    I have always given my kids big chunks of free play time, and the rest of the time we spend learning is hands on and playful. And by the end of the year they've usually met all their goals (standards) and on top of that have become great social and cognitive problem-solvers, patient and caring people, and are still loving school :)

    (Oh, and I know my profile says I teach PreK, but I've also taught K and 1st. Next year I'll be moving back to teaching K)
     
  15. KinderCowgirl

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    Thank you! I knew fellow K teachers would come to my rescue! ;)

    Halpey-I read that piece on your blog when you posted it-I thought it was very interesting. On my book list for summer reading.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

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    Apr 9, 2011

    I work with adults, and I know that what I do is succeeding when I can get them to play with ideas and concepts.

    At whatever age, the play of the mind is absolutely critical to learning.
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Hey there! I hope I haven't miscommunicated that I support play! My response was if there is a time crunch and not enough time to spend on things. True, some kids don't get enough play time at home, but a substantially smaller number get adequate early reading intervention from a qualified professional at home. Given the crisis with reading (not to mention math, etc.) we are experiencing in this country - often the result of poor basic skill acquisition - my point was that we shouldn't sacrifice instructional components like early reading intervention for play, if only one can be selected, of course with the qualification that some play will always be important to break up the day, give a break, and foster social skill development.

    Also, I also spent a lot of time playing and never received early reading intervention, but many children are different and 1) aren't naturally good at reading, and 2) provided good home instruction that supports early literacy skills. It's important for me in education to not think that all children just need the same as I received to turn out okay!
     
  18. KinderCowgirl

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    I think it's just different perspectives. We are talking about 5-year olds, for many their 1st experience with school. We have ridiculous standards (Kinder is now what 1st Grade was 10 years ago). Many schools have forbidden things like housekeeping centers and as I said before blocks and art and replaced it with a standard of reading 40 wpm and being able to understand place value by the end of Kindergarten.

    Believe me, we do a lot of intervention. My point was I mourn the loss for the kids where the learning actually gets to be fun. I think in the near future we will see studies done that these kids lack the social skills/sportsmanship that they previously learned through playful activities in early childhood.
     
  19. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Unfortunately, the bolded sections highlight exactly the problem when people who are not experts with early childhood development try to set policy. When one tries to focus on "academics" instead of "play" they begin to deprive the child of exactly what they need to obtain the results the talking heads claim they want to obtain. Play is how the young child learns. They do not learn by focused academics. They learn through doing and playing. A truly developmentally appropriate kindergarten classroom teacher has the hardest job in the world. She has to make the whole classroom look like play, much of which looks unstructured, all the while guiding the "play" to develop the brain of the young child. As soon as it turns to "work" we lose the child.

    My (non-evil) grandmother said it best: "You can't put an adult head on 5 year old shoulders". There's a whole lot more truth to that than any politician wants to admit.
     
  20. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I remember going into a young special needs classroom and the support staff in there were complaining that all they did in this classroom was play and the kids weren't learning. The ironic part was that I was familiar enough with the curriculum to clearly write the objectives for just about everything I saw happen during this "play." I liked this classroom because I find the teachers that can do this kind of thing really have talent. I have to incorporate a certain amount of it in my K classroom and I was always looking around to other rooms to see if I couldn't make it better because thinking about play in such a deep way just doesn't come "natural" to my adult brain but looking closely... make no mistake... a good teacher has clear objectives craftily hidden there. Now I have seen teachers organize a fieldtrip or an event without any clear objectives. That's a loss of time. If it pertains to the objectives we are trying to teach, then I wholeheartedly agree.
     
  21. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Love this MM!

    Your post summed up what I was trying to say much better than I could. Thanks!
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think some clarification may be helpful on my end. First, my comments on this thread have been mainly referring to unstructured play with no objectives or learning activities. I definitely support the use of play in instruction, therapy, etc. I don't see "academics" and "play" as being mutually exclusive as you mentioned, and I don't see play as being a singular activity, just as "academics" doesn't refer to a single instructional strategy.

    Another point of clarification - I agree that we are pushing too much on kids too early, and that we - as a society - have become too focused on academics, ignoring how social, emotional, and behavioral development are not only important, but have long-lasting impacts on academic development too. I frequently advocate that teachers may more time for these other areas of development, through things such as social skills training, etc.

    All of this being said, we live in a particular society that has decided - independent of our own personal approval - that academic standards should be in place by Kindergarten. Even if we disagree with those standards and academic expectation, not helping kids meeting those expectations only disadvantages them. I do think that play and social development help these children meet these standards, but I get the sense from your post that you feel that 5-year-olds can only learn through play? I propose both play, with a focus on social/emotional development and cognitive development, as well as the use of more direct instructional strategies, with a focus on academic development. This isn't just a talking head speaking with a political objective of academic achievement, but someone greatly familiar with the research of how children at this age learn.

    My sense is that this discussion is becoming polarized, as is what sometimes happens in discussions like this: one or both sides start to view and characterize the other side's views as being much more extreme than they really are. I am being viewed as anti-play, completely rigid in my viewpoints of Kindergarten education, and only for the acquisition of rote skills. On the other hand, some of the opposing side may be tempted to characterize play-advocates as "softies," unrealistic, utopian, unaware of the possibilities of Kindergarten students related to formal instruction, etc. I don't believe either to be true. My sense is that most posting here would support the use of some structured and direct learning activities, such as guided reading groups, and that they would not support a day filled only with play. Likewise, I am not advocating setting policy in complete contradiction to what is known about play and early childhood development. I am not advocating the abolition of play, nor the prohibition of play-based instruction.

    Hopefully some of this helps clarify my perspective, and I apologize for distracting from the original post!
     
  23. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Healthy debate is a good thing! My intention certainly wasn't to make you feel polarized. :)

    I hate when people on this board dismiss someone's thoughts on parents because they aren't one-I don't dismiss your ideas because you haven't actually taught early childhood, but I think with that experience we have seen first-hand the changes and what the stress on simply academics is doing to these kids. The comments about kids getting enough play at home is a common feeling among curriculum-makers these days and it gets my hackles up.

    I loved that the article proves figuring out how it works increases learning better than simply lecturing a child on how it works. I wish the powers-that-be would understand that an let us use that strategy in early childhood where their little brains are so ready for learning in that way.
     
  24. EdEd

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    It's all good - I just it heading that way, and thought I'd call attention to it! Thanks for your response.

    I haven't actually taught a K classroom in a public school setting, but I've done academic/behavioral intervention in a structured setting with K students before. Our program was, surprisingly, mostly play-based :). However, we did have a direct instruction component, and some other structured learning opportunities, that we found valuable.
     
  25. puff5655

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    If you read the joint position statement on early literacy from the NAEYC and IRA, those respectable organizations support this notion. Kids NEED adequate time for UN-structured play to develop the skills they will need for success in reading (not just for social skills and a "break"), and this applies especially for at-risk kids. They say that kids also do need direct instruction, especially in phonics, but that play is the most important.

    Last year I taught ELL, at-risk Kindergartners with no prior school experience (only one of whom had EVER held a book before). I had them for just 3 hours a day, and over half of that time was spent in open-ended play. During that time, I took small groups and individuals to work with, while my aide was devoted to facilitating learning. By the end of the year, they had all come so far and most were performing on or above grade-level.

    Without any pressure, and with tons of options, my kids actually chose most of the time to be engaged in meaningful literacy activities- writing on whiteboards, making grocery lists, reading to each other, etc. Their favorite activity was making books. Some even started cutting pieces of ribbon to tape on as a bookmark (like a bible).

    Some kids would sit and write and write and write for over an hour. Made me pretty happy!
     

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