Sometimes Kids Just Need to Play During School

The importance of play doesn’t end after preschool and kindergarten. It becomes even more important when students are older and face more academic challenges. Play stimulates the brain and triggers creative thinking. It’s a recipe for success.

User Generated Education

Teachers get so much pressure to meet standards and prepare students for state mandated tests, that I believe they forget their students are just kids. Because of this pressure, too many teacher education and professional development strategies stress the concept of time on task. For example, see Identifying (and Engaging Students in), Time-on-Task Activities, Increasing Time on Task, and Time on Task. This has some importance in teaching and learning but it shouldn’t always be the professed key to good instruction. This leaves little time for play. Play is important for students of all ages and grades.

This week I was reminded of the importance of playing and having fun; and that play and fun are determined by the kids, themselves. I planned a math lesson based on visual patterning, The concluding activity was for them to make a Fractal Tetrahedron, a marshmallow-toothpick tower. I…

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About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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40 Responses to Sometimes Kids Just Need to Play During School

  1. Opher says:

    Play is imagination, social skills, communication, invention, motor skills, negotiating…………. It’s also fun!!

  2. Play and imagination are so important…. And yes too many schools these days place too much importance on achieving their set goals, while not always taking into account the child’s need to be just a child… And grow in play and imagination which to me are important skills…
    Even parents today want their children to grow up too fast… Keep having fun with your students Jennie…. That is why they progress as they do… You seem to have the right balance of both.. ❤

  3. Ritu says:

    They are almost the most important thing!

  4. I remember being surprised that the closest thing to recess in middle school was “If I finish my lunch early, I can go outside.” It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to play pretend or something, like I did as a younger person, but that I wanted the chance to socialize a bit or to read my book. High school? Don’t even get me started. PE was so focused on team sports, and the “it’s your fault our side lost” game that it was no fun whatsoever. Plus, there was no opportunity for imagination.

    I think that the ability to play is metaphorically beaten out of us … and that’s unfortunate.

    • Jennie says:

      Well said, Sharon! Play is different things at different ages, and it is all important. Your memories are pretty true as to how it is today. What a shame. My memories of high school PE are as awful as yours. So, creativity and imagination are squashed, not to mention health. I think the pendulum is beginning to sway back the other way. I read so many articles on the value and importance of play. Schools know. Now they have to find a way to make it happen. Finland certainly did, and they are far ahead of America academically. They place recess and play as a high priority. Apologies for the long reply, Sharon. And, thank you for reading and commenting.

  5. Patriel says:

    Play is the method that the early brain stretches and uses the information that has been collected and needs to be utilize in order to categorize it and use Memory to retrieve the information . All humans NEED to have time to be free.

  6. Darlene says:

    I agree that play is important, even for adults.

  7. beetleypete says:

    Good reblog, Jennie. And all very true. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. Ellen says:

    Excellent! The wisdom of Fred Rogers cannot be disputed : “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Or as, Erick H. Erikson the American psychoanalyst nicely phrased it : “The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” Thank-you for sharing!

    • Thank you for sharing these quotes, Ellen. Play is indeed the work of childhood.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Ellen. The Fred Rogers statement is one that I dearly love. He was the wise one, and his words still ring true. Thank goodness! I have never heard the words of Erick H. Erikson. They are brilliant, and so true. Thank you!

  9. I agree with this post children need to play

  10. Elizabeth says:

    My grandson was just over here having jumped the fence to try out his latest device to throw an egg off the upper deck without it breaking. He sees no distinction between play and school.

  11. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article, Jennie. I’ve shared it from the original post and from yours as well. Kids, learning and play–a perfect score! ❤

  12. Mireya says:

    Yes very true

  13. RJRaley says:

    Between ages 4 and 7, play is without doubt, our most important job as humans in development. Testing needs to move where it really belongs, to cover the lawmakers, state and federal. Let’s see which legislators fall into the 99 percentile, better than than the other 98 wannabes. And even more impotent 2% that fall well below a standard of excellence set up by the princeton based Education Testing Service, training and raising concerns, for the, till now, untested, adult perpa-traitors, uneducated and misinformed digital porn enthusiasts, worried more about their job, re-election money, than any real educator stuck on a salary scale.

    We expect our troops, day to day, front line troops to give all they have to their job and contract. And then recieve according to some dimwit opinions, still stuck on Dick and Jane.

    Too bad, so sad, let’s see how you boys and girls do when the ETS is done with y’all.

    No problemo, half your asses are going to be below average. I can’t wait to hear how yo goin explained dat to da next fun-fund-raiser…

    Because, the simple truth is, you forgot everything you were taught in kindergarten:

    Hold hands, look out for your friends, and play nice…

    • Jennie says:

      Hear hear! Your words are gems and rooted in truth and wisdom. I get to hold hands, look out for friends, and play nice at school every day. Since I’m a role model for children, they are learning what’s most important.

      Today we paint like the Impressionists, using real artist tools and paints, and listing to classical music on my record player for inspiration – but not before we have played outside. 🙂

  14. Norah says:

    Great post to repost, Jennie. Play is extremely important – to all of us.

  15. dolphinwrite says:

    Actually, I would venture a further step. Children need to get away from all too many intellectuals of the day. We see problems, then solutions to the problems, but in some ways, the solutions are an extension of the problems, often becoming new problems. **Let me explain. In most of my years, I had absolutely no difficulty managing the class, even when another class was added due to a sudden teacher absence. Why? Because I knew the material and knew the kids. And they knew what an energetic, determined person was. **But later, to deal with the problems “evolving,” which wasn’t necessary before, I designed a system that would work in any class. The problem was, I wasn’t getting the know the students like before, “fun” and creativity was reduced, and they learned less. **I think, we’re in a time where the only answer is for parents to take charge of their children’s education, and if they utilize public, charter, private, or tutors, they need to be there to watch what is happening, making surprise visits, pouring over the texts, and really scrutinize. I guarantee, if I was a wee one growing up in this day and age, I wouldn’t listen to anyone. My eyes would go blank while the engineering went on, and play would be my favorite subject.

    • Jennie says:

      You are so right, on all counts. I find myself teaching the parents as much as teaching the child, because they are overwhelmed with their life. They are stressed, worry about academics, and have their children overbooked with activities. That trickles down to the child, who then becomes blank, or worse. They both need to play, for many reasons. Thank you so much!

      • dolphinwrite says:

        Perhaps start considering an alternate career or business. Even there, you can do much.

      • Jennie says:

        I love what I do. It is hard and important. Teaching the parents is a sad reality, but that’s where I can make a difference. I keep plugging away, as they need and appreciated all the guidance they can get. Thank you so much. 🙂

  16. So true, and so nice too. Thank you for sharing, Jennie!

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