Cookies, milk, naps and play! Every year I have parents, teachers, friends, and, yes…even administrators comment to me by saying kindergarten is easy because we play all day. The secret is out! I am here to testify that this is mostly true. I say mostly because naps are not a big part of kindergarten but play, cookies and milk are. Here are five reasons that teachers should be intentional in incorporating play in the classroom everyday.
Back in the days when seat belts were optional and children played outside unsupervised all day, children were developing a strong set of problem solving skills. OK…maybe not the seat belt thing. However, studies have shown that children that play outside and have free play, develop problem solving skills that begins at infancy. For example, infants learn that when they push a button, a light and sound occurs. As they get older, their problem solving skills develop more and they begin to test physics and other science and math based theories by building tower blocks and as they learn, they begin to introduce tools to solve problems.
Any interview that I have ever been in, either as a prospective employee or as part of an interview board, there are always questions about the 3 C’s… cooperation, communication and collaboration. Where do these skills get taught? The skills are usually taught at home through modeling. However, these 3 essential skills are formally taught and learned through play in kindergarten.
Any kindergarten teacher will tell you that one of the biggest skills that we consistently work on is social skills…Please, thank you’s, taking turns, being a problem solver, being independent, and the list goes on. Social skills are quintessential skills needed to navigate the social norms in and out of the classroom. Just ask any kindergarten teacher how many gentle reminders they give in a day about these basic skills. My guess is…alot!
Obviously, it helps kids create healthy habits. I do not want to diminish the fact that American children out weigh many other children from different countries. Based on a Harvard study from the school of public health, ” Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world.” I have to question if this is because children are seeing less active play in school in conjunction with unhealthy school lunches? Based on the CDC “The physical activity and eating behaviors that affect weight are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, community organizations, health care providers, faith-based institutions, businesses, government agencies, the media, and schools. The involvement of all of these sectors will be needed to reverse the epidemic. ” So why not start in the classroom?
As I said in an earlier blog #bringing-math-into-the-spotlight students begin to see their world mathematically. They begin to see shapes and they learn about spacial concepts early on. Incorporating play into the classroom reinforces math by having students apply math concepts to real world application. For example, when students build a tower with wooden blocks, they are using geometry,physics…well, you get the point.
So for all the people who think us kindergarten teachers just play all day, I say you are right! We do play a lot but we are teaching the essential skills of problem solving, teamwork, social skills, healthy lifestyle and to top it off… academics. The cookies and milk are for the teacher as a reward for all their hard work!
6 ways I incorporate play into the classroom
Finger puppet stage– It is great to see kids not only taking turns but working together to put on a master piece
Giant stuffed animals- Great for kids who are a little younger that need to snuggle with something for a break. Also great for students who get upset and need to work off that energy by lifting something 3 times their size.
Classic board games- They never cease to be fun. Works on counting, and social skills.
Carpet hopscotch- Great indoor physical activity that incorporates math skills.
Bean bin-great for sensory breaks, math skills
My favorite…Gonoodle. Great way to incorporate technology into the classroom and physical activity with a dance party.
I believe that the foundation of all learning begins in the home and all students are "OUR" students.Not yours, not mine but OURS.