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


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…

August 24, 2017

CDC + Shape Recess Guidelines ›

The CDC and SHAPE America recently released new guidliens to provide schools with strategies for a safe and healthy recess.

July 28, 2017

Checklist: Back to School, Back to Recess ›

As teachers are preparing lesson plans, learning new curriculum, and setting up their classrooms, it is time to start prepping our collective classroom: the playground. Recess deserves back to school planning just like any other classroom. In fact, a recent Robert Woods Johnson Foundation brief recommends that schools, “Treat recess plans like lesson plans. Like classrooms, recess needs…