If you are a follower of my on Facebook, you might have read some of the articles I've shared about the importance of play in kindergarten. It's a real shame that our littlest learners are being cheated out of valuable play time because someone decided that kindergarten needs to be rigorous. We are hurting our students by not allowing them to play. A recent trip to the wonderful Chicago Children's Museum helped to illustrate that fact that little kids NEED TO PLAY!
The first stop on our visit was the room with the boats. The girls loved it! We spent about an hour in there while they captained a two level tug boat, and cooked a bunch of yummy Lake Michigan fish in the quarters below deck. Isabella & Olivia sold bait at while Amelia waited for her speed boat to be refueled. A real sailboat, fishing poles, nets, and life jackets added to the make believe fun. My darling granddaughters were not only having fun, they were working hard! The article cited below supports the importance of allowing Kinders to have free play everyday.
"Young children work hard at play. They invent scenes and stories, solve problems, and negotiate their way through social roadblocks. They know what they want to do and work diligently to do it. Because their motivation comes from within, they learn the powerful lesson of pursuing their own ideas to a successful conclusion. Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than nonplayers, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean. They are less aggressive and show more self-control and higher levels of thinking." Source
The sign posted on the wall of the water room offers a great explanation of why water play is so good for kids. My own daughters loved to play with water, and so do their daughters! This was little Amelia's favorite part of the museum ~ she was wet from head to toe. But, hey, it was just water! It might not be possible to have water play in the classroom, but there are other sensory activities that can be included into the classroom.
"We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Think of it as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning." Source
Movement! The museum offered so many opportunities for the kids to move around, jump, climb, slide, etc. The girls were so tired at the end of the day! Isabella & Olivia loved the fire pole in the fire station. Amelia was too little to do it, but she love the slides. The sign says it all ~ kids need to move.
"Learning is a function of the whole nervous system.Children have difficulty learning if all of the sensory systems are not helping them to process what is on the page and in their environment. The more fine-tuned the sensory and motor systems – the more one can learn and the easier it is to learn." Source
"Kids simply need a supportive environment to tinker with an idea long enough to make it work, Stager said. They don’t need to be burdened by explaining which stage of the inquiry process they’re demonstrating. “We need to ask ourselves is there less we can do and more the kids can do?” Sager said." Source
When I asked five year old Isabella what she liked best at the museum she said the room where you can make stuff. She really liked using the power drill! Olivia (2 1/2) enjoyed using the hammer more, and Amelia (almost 2) liked playing with the wall of stuff to move around. I know power drills aren't something you can have for Kinders, but you can have building blocks, Lego, Playdoh, and Lincoln Logs.
Check out the links to the sources for more information on the importance of play, so when you let your students have playtime you have proof that it is vital to the learning process!
PS, here are some pictures of my wonderful family.
Sarah is a kindergarten teacher, too!
Emily is an author & her husband teaches third grade.
Gabrielle works in advertising.