Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The value of play...again!

I have written about the value of play before, in fact at around the same time last year!  With the long Summer break, I think that it is a topic worth revisiting. At Bradbury, we have continued to explore how this approach, which is fundamental to our philosophy of a constructivist approach to learning; enhances learning for all of our students.

Einstein has said that 'play is the highest form of research' and we would certainly concur! One issue we have with this approach though, is the word 'play'. It just does not conjure up visions of rigor and academic discipline and I am encouraging teachers to think of an alternative description- after all, it is the approach that matters and not the name.

So what do students gain from play? We believe the benefits include:

  • autonomy
  • creativity
  • investigation skills
  • problem solving skills
  • the ability to make connections
  • reflection skills
  • social skills
There are  several different types of play and each one has something to offer our students, so we try to ensure that play is varied:
  • Artistic- the important thing about this type of play is the process of exploration that the student goes through to learn something about themselves or a particular concept.
  • Virtual - these are where playgrounds become virtual. 'the tools must enter into the user's thoughts, actions and language' (Noss & Hoyles 1996)
  • Imagery/Social Dramatic - this type of play places an emphasis on the student as a social learner as it allows opportunities for children to work with others and to  speak and listen which allows for further & deeper emotional development and higher order thinking (Saifer 2010)
  • Exploratory - exploring and investigating are key here, for example, with batteries, circuits and magnets, floating and sinking.
  • Games- games with rules 'develops cognitive ability, physical, emotional and behavioural health, irrespective of age' (Kinzie & joseph 2008) And who of us, even as adults does not enjoy winning a game of tennis or Monopoly?
  • Small world- where miniature equipment, such as a doll's house, is provided to represent real life. 
  • Role play- where students experience roles that the adults in their world take on.
Children have  a wide repertoire of play. They select from it according to varying factors, for example, circumstance, resources, weather, their surroundings and who is available to play with them. It is an important part of learning, so over Summer, please encourage your children to play. Set up a variety of approaches for them, dig out that board game and let them have fun while they learn!