Let Your Kids Play! The importance of adding play in your curriculum for K-12 (A Free Curriculum of Play included for your reading pleasure!)
It goes without saying that children love to play. They begin exploring things around them when they are infants: grasping, mouthing and staring. This is how they learn. I remember nearly anything that came near my young toddlers (including the dog) would invariably end up in their mouths! As they grow, children need to continue to play in order to learn how our world works. You know what happens when you put a little one in a high chair. It suddenly becomes a place to learn about gravity. Cheerios, spoons, bowls, sippy cups and a whole host of items are tested to see what happens when they are dropped from the chair. Though it causes moms to cringe when a plate of spaghetti hits the floor, we need to realize that this is a fun and educational thing! Yes, yes…it is a mess, too.
Well, it is just as important for us to include opportunities for students to play during their school day. Their brains are wired to experiment with things around them. Young minds can focus for short periods of time but then need time to process that information. Play gives them time to act out and test things they are learning.
It gives children a time to expend some of that pent-up energy. It allows them to use their outside voices and jump and climb. Studies have shown that children NEED these opportunities not only to build their bodies, but also their mental capabilities. Board games can build math skills as students try to add the numbers on dies and on cards. Playground time gives them a chance to role play some of the stories they have read. I remember my boys often re-enacting Robin Hood in our backyard fort.
And I’m talking about ALL ages. Even high school students need time to play. They need thinking time - time to use some of their new skills. Incorporate themed play into your older children’s schedule. Use strategy games when you are learning about world wars, film a scene from a novel they are reading (or they can write their own!), play a video game set during the time in history you are studying.
So here is a Curriculum of Play containing some obvious play activities and some not-so-obvious (the asterisks indicate possible parent oversight- you need to decide what is appropriate):
Am I telling you something you didn’t already know? No, probably not. But sometimes we get so bogged down in our academics that we forget that play is just as important. Don’t let your children miss these times. It will make them happier, healthier, AND smarter. You are not doing a disservice to them when you let them have creative time.
And if you need to, plan play time as a subject - something to check off your list. That may help you see this as progress in your day instead of time away from their school work. And perhaps YOU may want to enjoy some of this play time with them. You know, it is educational for you, too. You can learn more about what your children love to do. Let them pretend along with you. Ask them why they are doing things. Play a board game or card game with them. Let older ones teach you the rules to a new game they are enjoying. Your children will revel in the time you are spending with them and you will have sweet memories!