The Power of Play

Superintendent Wayne Weber

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” -Leo F. Buscaglia

On Monday, March 18, the School Board, Administrative Team, and those attending the board meeting partook in a presentation by Rosendale Primary teacher Amanda Kinyon and some of her 4K friends. The presentation focused on the power of play. As part of the presentation, Mrs. Kinyon briefly presented some resources supporting the importance of play. After that, we were able to participate with the 4K students in a variety of modes of play. To be honest, it was one of my favorite board meetings. Not that all board meetings aren’t fun, but it is hard to beat the enthusiasm and energy of kindergarten students!

The day after the meeting, I was organizing materials from the meeting, and I took a closer look at the material Mrs. Kinyon shared. One of those resources was a blog titled “10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play” from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The blog piqued my interest both as an educator and parent. I wanted to know more so I Googled “power of play.” I wasn’t surprised to find a plethora of resources that supported the concept that play, in all its forms, enhances the social, emotional, and intellectual development of children.

For our elementary age children, engaging in play is how they can best prepare themselves for their adult role. Self-directed play is how we learn to overcome fears, make friends, and understand the link between choices and outcomes. I think back to my own childhood. I was blessed to grow up in a time and place where electronics or other gadgets were not readily available (or even invented). We relied on imagination as we played in the sandbox and played cops and robbers. We played football, baseball, and/or basketball almost daily without an adult to organize or officiate. We rode our bikes everywhere because if we didn’t we weren’t getting there.

This was us engaging and play. It helped us develop key skills that are now referred to as 21st century skills. (I don’t know what those skills were called in the 20th century.) Things such as critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and collaboration that when paired with subject matter knowledge help increase our ability to be successful in an increasingly competitive and interconnected world.

In a day and age where students are coming to school with higher anxiety levels and greater social and emotional needs than ever before, we need to keep focused on the importance of play and safe and nurturing relationships in the healthy development of our youth. As schools, we need to provide a balance curriculum that allows opportunities for our students to engage in play and social time.  As parents, we need to take time to engage in play with our children and encourage their interaction with peers. These interactions, while adult supervised, should not necessarily be adult directed.

If you’re interested, there is a ton of research you can find backing the importance of play. Until the 4K presentation, I only knew that I really liked going into our kindergarten classrooms when they were engaged in their play stations, especially when I was feeling stressed. Thanks to Mrs. Kinyon and her 4K friends, I now have a better understanding of what is happening with our students when I am losing multiple games of Memory or engaged in role-playing Three Billy Goats Gruff. That fun is pretty important stuff…and I have the best job in the world!