At Playworks, we believe in the power of play to make schools stronger, and we create a place for every child on the playground. Through play, kids create their sense of self. On the playground, kids develop essential skills, such as empathy, cooperation, self control, leadership and teamwork. With games and a playful attitude, learning becomes fun and exciting. The following are five ideas to integrate play into the school day.
- Invite students to before school recess. Kids at Juniata Park Academy in Philadelphia, PA arrive before 8:00, but the school bell does not ring until 8:20. The kids arrive early so they can get in a healthy breakfast and physical activity to kick start to their learning. Coach Olivia provides students encouragement, a playful attitude and three or more fun games each morning. Teachers tell us that this not only gets the kids moving in the morning, it gives them an incentive to get to school on time.
- Take brain breaks in the classroom. By integrating five to ten minute breaks during classroom learning, teachers provide necessary movement and cerebral breaks to help children focus during lessons. Play a quick game of Up, Down, Stop, Go. Practice a yoga pose. Try a card from the Recessitate toolbox. Any playful break can energize kids.
- Teach with games and group play. Often student understanding and recall improves when they play a game or talk with a peer about the lesson. With a little research, you can find hundreds of game ideas to include in classroom lessons that will help check for understanding. Get started with these fun educational games.
- Recess! Principals tell us that most school discipline-related issues occur on the playground. We can change this. One well-trained, playful adult can make all the difference. We create a place on the playground for every kid. On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs, everyone contributes to the game. Coaches encourage kids to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids learn the value of compassion and respect. At recess, kids play hard and cheer loud. And this creates a feeling of peace and belonging that they carry with them back into their classrooms.
- Hold a community play day. Invite staff, students and families to attend an evening or weekend event that gives everyone the opportunity to play together. Student leaders can teach parents their favorite recess games. Staff can be silly and have fun with kids outside of the classroom. When everyone plays together, the school becomes a healthy community.
It is by rethinking the school day, that we can best educate children and develop the leaders of tomorrow. Schools that integrate play are happy, healthy communities for learning. One day every child will have a school day full of play!
What do you think our schools need to rethink?