Play is Applied Learning!
A Creative Brain
I have been blessed with a creative brain. I enjoy knitting, and yes, I am a Grandmother (I've heard all the Granny jokes), but I started knitting for my health . . .literally. Years ago, I was having some heart problems and I was told to slow down. Sitting and watching TV just made me too restless; it was counteractive to solving my heart problems. So, I took up knitting to keep my hands and brain busy. Right from the start, I rarely followed patterns. I'm not sure if it's the rebel in me coming out, but following patterns made my creative brain itch. I credit this creativity itchiness to the fabulous childhood I was offered.
I was part of the Streetlight Generation – those were the days! We ran free and far, we created games and did some really crazy things. Things I have not told my parent, even to this day. But the free-range education we received far exceeded anything we were taught in school. We problem solved how to create a game with the fragments of equipment we had. We tried our hand at negotiation when we wanted to change the rules or the game. We practiced bouncing the ball high enough to catch all the jacks in one scoop.
That education helped us pack our invisible SuperHero Toolbelts with life 'tools' that were readily available when we needed them. Whether it was through design or by chance, our parents gave us the precious gift of play. Think of children now. Prior to COVID, many children were overscheduled, shackled to their technological devices and hovered over by helicopter parents. How many tools were they able to pack in their toolbelts? Now, add in the solitary and sedentary lifestyle COVID cloaks us in. The few tools children did have in their toolbelts have rusted due to lack of use. Play is the oil that will get these tools back into shape.
What tools did we pack into our toolbelts years ago?
Play is Applied Learning
From the time of the Hunter-Gather, children have played to learn and practice the skills they needed to survive. While survival is not necessarily the long-term goal of play today, it is still critical to a child's development. If we take an activity and dissect it, you will be amazed at how memorable learning can look. Then you'll ask yourself, why aren't you playing more?!
Learned skills we pack into our toolbelts when we:
Play Lego or blocks (solitary play):
- Fine motor skills
- Hand-eye coordination
Play restaurant/food truck (partner play):
- Taking turns (ideas as well as equipment)
- Conflict resolution
- Working memory
Recess is Applied Learning
For many children, recess is the only opportunity for authentic play. Recess is a part of the school's timetable that should not be taken for granted, nor should it be withdrawn as punishment or to finish work.
A game of tag develops:
- Fundamental Movement Skills: running, dodging
- Decreased loneliness
- Conflict resolution
- Risk management
4 Square with friends:
- Cognitive flexibility
- Fundamental Movement Skills – sending, receiving, dodging
- Sense of belonging
- Character values
Packing our tool belt for life
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.
When we value play, we value education. The Oxford dictionary defines education as "an enlightening experience." That sounds like play to me!