The Power of Play

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There is a great deal of literature on the topic of play and the benefits of play in the classroom. Room 15 and 16 engage in play in the classroom during regular, scheduled discovery time. Teacher observation gives an insight into the amount of learning that is taking place and also provides an opportunity to extend thinking and consolidate learning.

There is a multitude of benefits attributed to regular and planned play, especially for younger children.

  • Current research tells us that children operate right at the edge of their independent capabilities during play. This is where new learning takes place.

  • Whilst playing, children may take far greater risks than they would in an instructional setting. Children can be seen pushing the boundaries of their abilities in learning areas such as writing, reading, oral language learning such as vocabulary building, and physical skills.

  • Observation of children engaging in any sort of play with others will give insight into their understandings about essential social and emotional skills such as compromise, listening skills, empathy, and collaboration, and will provide children valuable opportunities to practice learned skills.

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Here during a pretend play session with Barbies, Reagan (playing the role of the mum) and Briez-Maree (playing the role of the daughter), negotiated and collaborated in order to keep their game moving along. Briez-Maree was heard asking Reagan to sort out a dispute between two of the dolls. The two girls were able to work through the imaginary issue, effectively using the dolls as avatars and practicing skills learned in negotiation and fair play. Role plays such as this can be recreations of an actual event, a retelling of a story or a movie, or simply an imagined scenario. Regardless, the learning is crucial for future problem solving in relationships.

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Through play, Lacey and Nia were able to practice their fine motor skills and their letter formation. The iPad gave them immediate feedback on their accuracy. They could be heard wondering out loud about where to start and celebration when they traced the letter correctly.

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Sadie and Kayleen were found playing with a letter threading activity, during which they each constructed their own name using the letters and a length of cord. The obvious skill being practiced here is their letter knowledge as they had to each find the correct letters in the correct order to spell their names. They also used their fine motor skills to thread the letters onto the cord – pretty tricky stuff. Negotiation was very important during this activity as the girls’ names have shared letters and while there were enough to go around, it was a bit tricky to find them. Attached to this negotiation was sharing and helping each other to locate the letter one or the other needed so both girls were happy.

The next time your child engages in play at home, have a listen and ask questions about what they are doing. You may be surprised at how much learning is happening!

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Keywords: Discovery, Play, Social and Emotional Skills, Negotiation, Collaboration

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