May 03, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Teacher talk: How play helps children make sense of the world

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are recognizing teachers who understand the value of play, and who advocate for play opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. Yesterday, teachers discussed how eliminating play in favor of academics does not facilitate greater learning, and the many ways in which play and learning go hand in hand.

Today, teachers talk about how play helps children make sense of the world by facilitating hands-on discovery and exploration:

“Children need to play every day! My kids have time every day to invent, explore, discover, and play around topics they choose and are interested in. I set up my ‘Explore’ time with materials that interest my students and give them time to play together while learning new things. We also play in science, outside, in math and in literacy. Play is a child's work!”
- Katie Keier, Virginia

“My students investigate their thoughts and ideas with purposefully placed materials. I set up a classroom where the environment is the teacher. The materials I provide stimulate questions, activities, and life skills for children. The children are able to ‘play’ all day in my room and yet learn more than they ever would in an ‘academic’ environment!”
- Stefanie Penland, Maryland

“As a preschool teacher I enjoy watching the wonder of discovery through play. I will often set out materials that we have used in a lesson for children to have ‘free play’ with. To see what they create and share and explore is always amazing and almost always new and different than before.”
- Amy Alves, California

“I love watching as my daycare children discover how something works while during play.”
- Terri Montgomery, Minnesota

“My preschoolers learn through play by experimenting with the environment and different materials. This week we are exploring the effects of wind by making sailboats and floating them in our water table while we use a fan to create wind.”
- Heidi Woltemath, Michigan

“My kindergarten students get over an hour of free play every day; I plan the rest of our day around this sacred time. I teach in French immersion, and play time is when new vocabulary, phrases, and sentence structures become REAL for my students. I hear them trying out new words and linking ideas together in the course of their play, and I know that their language skills would suffer if their entire day was consumed with "structured" activities.”
- Amy Murray, Alberta (Canada)

“Play is children's work and to take that important process of discovery away from them is to crush their sense of wonder and exploration. We want to create life-long learners and play is the first step!”
- Danielle Niermann, Illinois

“In our recent ‘Weather’ unit, the children helped make a tornado in a bottle. They voted on the color, measured the water, poured it through funnels and with practice learned how to swirl the bottle to form a tornado. This one easy activity incorporated social studies, math and science—while the four-year-olds just thought it was a blast!”
- Donna Perry, Connecticut

Tomorrow: Teachers talk about the importance of play outdoors during the school day.

Previous installments:

early childhood education, teacher appreciation week, education, elementary school, preschool