Building Skills Through Play: How Play Teaches Students How to Lose

  1. Updates

At Playworks, we love to have a good time at recess. From foursquare to kickball, our school staff are always encouraging students to have fun! But recess is also so much more than that! Every month this school year, our school-based staff have been working on different life skills through play at recess, during the school day, and at afterschool programming.

In February, our staff focused on helping students with managing disappointment, like losing a game. Everyone can think back to a time they probably didn’t manage disappointment very well, both as a kid and as an adult. For kids, it’s incredibly easy to get swept up in the negative emotions disappointment brings and become emotionally dysregulated to the point that they might act out. Playing games at recess can be a lot of fun until you find yourself not coming in first or not getting picked for a particular game or getting a chance to lead. When this happens, students need to have the self-regulation skills to manage their emotions which has to be taught and practiced. Without strong self-regulation, these disappointments can easily escalate for a child and lead to displays of negative behaviors towards their peers or other adults.  

At Playworks, we know that during play there will be multiple instances of disappointment and the key is not to run away from this tough situation for students but rather to help guide them through. We utilize the play experience as an opportunity for students to develop those self-regulation skills and ensure students are better equipped to manage disappointment when they come across it in other settings, like the classroom. 

Playworks programming has been proven to decrease negative behaviors out on the playground. Last school year, 92% of the educators at our partner schools reported in the Annual Survey that Playworks strengthens students’ ability to resolve conflict on their own. So how does Playworks help students manage disappointment and self-regulate during play? 

There are four main ways Playworkers are managing disappointment: 

  1. Positive self talk-reassure yourself 

  2. Belly Breathing

  3. Stop and think-importance assessment

  4. Giving yourself grace – it’s ok

It’s important for Playworkers to model disappointment and respond in a calm manner. By having adults model behavior in school and play settings, students are able to watch, learn, and then replicate positive behaviors and meet what’s expected of them. So the next time you see someone struggling with managing disappointment, try these four tactics to help them out. And if you see someone managing disappointment in a positive way, congratulate and praise them to help reinforce the behavior.

In March, we’re talking all about Lighting Lingo so stay tuned!

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