Why Learning Through Play Works

By providing more opportunities for students to play in and out of the classroom, we not only gain student interest, we develop the whole child. The benefits of play are seemingly endless. Share these academic, social, emotional, and physical benefits of play with your school community.

Academic Benefits
Many games, such as Steal the Bacon which requires students to wait for their number to be called, are easy to adapt to include academic topics. Leaders can call out a math problem which students must solve in their head to know if it’s their turn. But there are hidden academic benefits as well. In Steal the Bacon, students develop concentration as they listen closely and wait their turn; this improves students’ attention regulation.

Social Benefits
Jump rope games are great for encouraging sharing and turn-taking. In addition, players must learn cooperation to turn the rope together, practice conflict resolution when issues arise, and develop their communication skills. Students take these skills back to the classroom as they work together.

Emotional Benefits
Play is fun! It may not always seem like a priority, but having fun at school matters. When one Colorado elementary school introduced more games and activities at recess, first-grader Sean’s self-confidence grew. He went from standing by the teacher’s side to getting into the game. Play helped Sean become a happier, healthier kid. As we know, happy kids are more open to learning.

Physical Benefits
Games like
Triangle Tag are incredibly active and fun and can be exhausting. Every student gets to play and run or shuffle—developing necessary gross motor skills and building key muscles which help students become better learners and players.

What other benefits of play do you see in your school and community?

More Resources


May 9, 2018

Designing an Inclusive Recess ›

How might we help all kids feel included at recess? Part of the answer will always be students who lead by example. But inclusion is also a recess design challenge. Small changes have a big impact on recess culture. At Playworks, we look at everything from the lines on the blacktop to how students play…

March 15, 2018

Recess in the rain… and snow… and… ›

Whether it’s snow, rain, smog, or cold, weather can put a wrench in recess. Playworks is here to help. This toolkit draws on our 20 years of experience on playgrounds and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Kids need physical activity every day, and they are healthier when they get to play outdoors. Fresh air, sunlight,…

February 1, 2018

The Rise of the Recess Team ›

At an elementary school outside of Sacramento, CA, the recess team clusters around four different pieces of butcher paper, drawing maps for TK kindergarten, primary, and upper-grade recesses and for the after-school program recreation time. This is the second day of a two-day recess deep dive, and the group is taking a fresh look at…