Building skills through play: prioritizing joy everyday

  1. Updates

What does it mean to prioritize joy and why is it important?

Kids (and adults) have been through a lot in the last few years. While still recognizing the challenges that we face every day, there is something to be said about the power of prioritizing joy every single day, especially in schools. Joy can be found in so many settings: painting in art class, doing a science experiment in class, eating with friends in the cafeteria… and, of course, at recess.

If you’ve ever been to a Playworks recess, you’ve seen that joy is everywhere. From the laughter of students playing tag with their friends to the silly claps and attention getters used to open and close recess, prioritizing joy, fun, and play is central to what makes a Playworks recess so special. So what are some ways that you can prioritize joy throughout the day?

Games and activities to build a joyful environment:

  • There is no shortage of silly games that are sure to bring lots of joy to students, especially younger ones. The Big Cheese is a perfect game to play during transition times, such as waiting in line for a teacher at the end of recess or waiting for the school bus at the end of the day. Want something that encourages creativity? Try out I See, I See! And while all games are sure to bring some joy, Tomato is a great option for all ages to get everyone laughing.
  • When trying to focus the attention of a group, use a fun attention getter to pull the attention to you! Here are a few that you can try out at recess or in the classroom:
    • Match me – have everyone do the same action as yourself, such as touch their shoulders, wave their arms, or do a silly dance.
    • If you hear my voice… – follow this statement with an action, such as “clap twice.”
    • When I say __, you say __ – use any two words, such as When I say recess, you say rocks. Recess, rocks!
    • Alligator, Alligator, Chomp, Chomp – you say alligator, alligator, the students call back chomp, chomp while making a chomping motion with their arms.
  • We use Claps as a silly and fun way to show appreciation for each other, whether it be for a great answer to a question, awesome Class Game Time, or just because we want to spread some positive energy! Try out the Mosquito Clap or the Fortnite Clap to bring some joy and appreciation into your day.

Other resources:

  • Lean into the power of joy by reading about other ways to bring joy back into your classroom. From letting students lead to reading aloud, this blog gives 20 practical tips for integrating joy into your students’ routines.
  • Have you ever wondered what’s happening in your brain when you’re playing? The science of joy and play explores the neurologic benefits of playing, both in kids and in adults.
  • Remember that you can play in any space! As it gets colder in the winter months, check out our indoor recess game guide for games to play in all indoor spaces, such as the classroom, auditorium, and even the hallway. Prioritize joy by making sure that kids get to play no matter what the weather!


Do you have other ideas for how to highlight joy in schools? Tweet us and let us know!

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