7 Patterns of Play

These 7 Patterns of Play are based on Dr. Stuart Brown's work and offer schools ideas to create a successful recess culture.  Survey your students to which of the play patterns they would like to see on their playground.

7 Play Patterns
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Active Recess Game

4 Ways to Lay the Foundation for an Awesome Recess

Of course, we’d bicker and pout if things didn’t go our way, but we always came back to play.  There was a familiarity to it, and we learned how to ebb and flow with each other.  When we played, we practiced empathy, patience (maybe not as much as we could have), creativity, imagination, problem-solving and resiliency without even knowing it.
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Riding the Emotional COVID Rollercoaster

Something Happened on the Way Home From the Park

Like many others, this pandemic has taken a toll on my mental health.  The isolation and the solitary confinement forced me to ride the COVID Rollercoaster.  I did not jump on this ride by choice, and against my best efforts, I could not avoid this unpredictable ride.  One day everything's just dandy; I'm travelling in an upbound car only to plummet powerlessly for the next three days on the downward side of the tracks without any control of the brakes!  And the price to ride is too high as it is measured in months of recovery.

My deep hole of depression


A quick personal historical update: over the last ten years, I have battled depression and anxiety. I did seek professional help, for which I am very grateful.  I will admit, I did not go willingly to that first appointment because, if you know anyone who is strong-willed (some people also call this stubborn), I could handle this myself just as I have done with every other barrier and adversity that has crossed my path. However, having a professional to guide me, listen and encourage me to emerge from 'My Hole' (that was how I identified my depression) gave me the tools I needed and still use to this day.

While I struggled out of My Hole, the thing I missed most was my creativity.  I have been blessed with a creative mind, and I see it as part of my identity. However, when my depression was the greatest, I found myself with a mind that was an empty, blank canvas.   It was both scary and frustrating.  Would I ever get that piece of me back? How can I do the work I love if I cannot problem solve, create a game on the spot or change a game around during a workshop because something or somebody changed what had been planned? Yet, those were things that made my heart sing.


depressed lady walking dog @sassygreenboots

Why am I sharing this very personal part of me now?  I crossed paths with a neighbour I haven't seen in well over a year.  I honestly thought she and her family had moved.  She was walking her dog, and I was on my way back from the park with my grandson.  I could immediately see something was off.  This usually upbeat, vibrant woman was a shell of herself.  She said she's been hibernating; she couldn't handle the COVID isolation and the lockdown situation.  We chatted for a few minutes, I let her know I could thoroughly understand what she was going through, and I told her to stay strong.

As we went our separate ways, I thought, do I really know what she was going through?  I knew that I had not handled this terrible time well, but could I compare my experience to hers?  Should I?  Did I have the right to?


Children can't play unless certain conditions are met

Children are also suffering from this isolated and solitary existence and undergo a whole gamut of emotions and experiences.   Yet understanding what is happening and articulating how they feel has been most challenging.   Most adults can't find the words to express the breadth and depth of these new feelings, so doesn't it make sense to encourage children to work through these emotions instead of stifling them?  As I see it, the bridge to recovery is obvious: children need to play.  Not should, not could or may - CHILDREN NEED TO PLAY.

Certain conditions need to be met for authentic play to occur.  Play requires children to have their basic needs met – they need to be fed, rested, and free from stress.  Play also requires time and opportunity.  But most importantly, Play is a child's right.  

deep imagination

So What?

Let's make sense of Play Fact:

  1. COVID has been both the cause of play deprivation and it is also the pause that allows us to make necessary changes to create improved and more frequent play occasions.
  2. Authentic Play can only happen when bellies are full, bodies and brains are rested, and stress is under control.
  3. Children must be given the time and opportunity to play: Authentic Play takes time to unfold. When children are allowed to unravel play in their own way, learning blossoms.
  4. Play can allow children to:
    1. Work through adversity;
    2. Create a sense of belonging, connectedness and trust;
    3. Re-engage in the physical literacy they may have been missing; and
    4. Find joy in friendships


Now What?

In our last couple of blogs, we shared why and how play is a natural bridge to recovery.  Outdoor play is optimal in reducing stress, increasing creativity and physical literacy, and it fosters social interactions.

Last year, we posted an article in The Hamilton Spectator: The first day of school is ... a play dayWe are not suggesting an all-out-pre-COVID Play Day, but a day (or part of the day) that allows children and teachers to engage and start to build or rebuild relationships is an exemplary way to start off the new school year!

 FootBridge to Recovery

We each need to find our play bridge to recovery.  Mine is not a solid concrete bridge, but instead, a wooden slatted footbridge, the kind you see in tree-top trekking.  It is unsteady; it moves up and down and wobbles as I walk across.  This will not be an easy recovery, and unique adjustments will need to be made for each person who crosses this bridge with me.  But as we travel together, we earn and give trust and respect.  As well, we learn things about our fellow bridge-crossers we may have never discovered in a pre-COVID setting.

Once we all reach the other side (and we will), the reward will be worth the effort: resiliency, self-confidence, and improved social/emotional skills are just a few.


Strengthening my mental health journey through play

That meeting with my neighbour stayed on my mind for a couple of days.  It led me to think about how I would put into action my bridge to recovery message as I start back working in schools in September.  Instead of reinventing the wheel and making life more complicated than it needs to be, I thought of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you":

  •  Let's express compassion with our eyes and words until we all feel comfortable with real hugs.
  • Let's practice patience and show with our body language that this person is worth the wait.
  • Let's show empathy beyond the scope of what we have experienced.
  • Let's show humility by putting others first in mind and action.
  • Let's not compare experiences. What prize are we trying to win?
  • Let's all be optimistic. Period.
  • Let's not armchair quarterback someone else's life; instead, let's ask how we can help.
  • Let's not assume because . . . well, we know that old saying on that one. If you don't, ask me.  I have experience!


Let's keep this recovery simple, be kind to ourselves and others.  We will get to the other side of the bridge when we support each other's tree-top trek.  Let me know what your bridge to recovery looks like
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The Importance of Physical Activity across the School Day

The Importance of Physical Activity across the School Day

Sustainable action requires a collective dialogue. It’s our belief that sustainable action focused on increasing opportunities for students to be physically active requires a collective dialogue involving many key partners, including students, educators, and experts in physical activity. We believe that action is required to:

  • increase the number of students that are participating in physical activity opportunities, both face to face and as part of remote learning;
  • establish a collaborative process to ensure all schools, communities and families have access to resources, supports and expertise needed to support quality, safe and inclusive opportunities for students; and
  • increase the capacity and reduce the barriers in schools and communities to offer a wider variety of physical activity opportunities for students.
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Playful knitting = a Playful Recess

Play is Applied Learning!

As defined by Dr. Stuart Brown, play is an apparently purposeless activity that is fun to do and pleasurable. He calls play the brain's best form of exercise and suggests that evolution has preserved play for a greater purpose than just fun. 
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Create a quality recess for Virtual learning and In-School

Recess at Home vs Recess at School – Let the games begin!

In speaking with a variety of principals and teachers, the one consistent thing found is inconsistencies.  While COVID has exposed many inequities, it is challenging to find a one-size-fits-all statement.  Not all children in low socio-economic areas are sedentary, or all children in mid to high socio-economic regions are active. 
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Time to Recess Takes Forever!

5 Pieces of the Recess Puzzle

If I were to compare recess today to mine 40 plus years ago (yikes!), you may be surprised at how different they are.  I mean, play is play, right?!  Regrettably, many factors affect play.  Parents with children in elementary school may be aware that societal influences and a school’s fear of litigation infiltrate the playground. 
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The first day of school is ... a play day

The first day of school is ... a play day

I strongly suggest to all administrators that they make the first day of school a play day.

What will this first day of school play day look like? A successful back to school launch ought to be considered from the child’s perspective rather than from an adult’s, especially in this COVID-19 time.

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The metal slide - a joyful playtime in the 70's

Children Who Play At Recess Develop Into Impressive Humans - Blog Series

This blog series will take a unique approach and look at play and recess from a home and school perspective with topics such as:

  • 6 Characteristics of Authentic Play
  • Really . .  .What is recess?
  • How play and recess support the four domains of child development – proof we need recess more than ever!
  • What are the 7 Play Patterns?
  • How do we create a quality recess experience?
  • Homeschool/Virtual School Recess versus “Real” School Recess
  • Withholding recess – helpful or harmful?
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