Where There’s Play, There’s Learning
Nancy Schulman has been Head of the Early Learning Center at Avenues: The World School since 2011. Prior to that she was the Director of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School for more than 20 years. Under Nancy’s leadership, the 92nd Street Y Nursery School was consistently regarded as one of New York City’s finest nursery and pre-k programs. She has also been a teacher and admissions director at the Horace Mann Lower School. She received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Syracuse University and an M.A. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from New York University. She is also the co-author of “Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years” Knopf July 2007.
- It is important to understand the benefits of play-based learning. Knowing why and how crucial it is to incorporate play into learning will make it possible to better support adding play to your day.
- Use different resources (online, journals, etc.) to help relay the many benefits of play to other in your life to help spread the word about play’s importance.
- Discover play-based lesson plans for the classroom and how it benefits the special child in your life.
Play is more than just fun and games – it helps children build a range of developmental skills that will serve them throughout their lives. And while plenty of researchers and educators continue to make a strong case for learning through play, many parents just don’t see its value. Instead, they’re hyper-focused on their kids achieving good grades in school and mastering a number of structured, extracurricular activities. Of course, these are worthy pursuits – but good old-fashioned playtime is just as important for their kids’ well-being and development.
According to a recent survey conducted by The Genius of Play, a movement that encourages families to make more time for play in their daily lives, 94 percent of educators incorporate toys and play into classroom activities to enhance learning. However, nearly half of the teachers polled said they don’t tell parents about the toys they use, or the games that they play, in class.
“Play is more than just fun and games – it helps children build a range of developmental skills that will serve them throughout their lives.”
It is important for teachers to make time to help parents understand the connection between play and learning the curriculum. If parents understand why and how infusing play into the curriculum is crucial to their children’s success, they can support the need for play in their children’s lives at home and school.
Consider checking out resources to help you relay the many benefits of play to parents and discover innovative ways to incorporate play into your school day:
The “Benefits of Play” section at TheGeniusOfPlay.org provides an overview of how play helps students: cope with frustration and other emotions, collaborate and compromise with peers, retain information, find creative solutions to challenges, and boost communication skills by exchanging thoughts and information with the rest of the class.
The “Play Facts” page features snapshots of studies and research about child development and play. For example, one study showed that kindergartners’ vocabulary was positively related to the amount of time they spent talking during pretend play at age 3. Another study found that kids who engage in imaginative play become more creative, perform better at school, and develop a problem-solving approach to learning.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out the “Expert Advice” column by Ross Flatt, manager of programs at the Institute of Play and former assistant principal at Quest to Learn School. He offers tips for introducing play-based learning into a school or classroom setting, with plenty of insight into what does and doesn’t work.
Finally, check out some play-based lesson plans for your classroom. These downloadable, hands-on, play inspired activities align with different aspects of the curriculum, making it easy to squeeze some much-needed playtime into the school day.
Simply put, there is no such thing as too much play. Where there is play, there is important learning taking place. Kudos to you if you already bring the magic of play into your classroom to enrich learning. And if you don’t already – it’s never too late to get on board. Happy playing!