Play is Learning

Learning Landscape Thursday, 25 Mar 2021

Play is often viewed as the time between learning - the space filler where kids can let loose and get out some energy before the ‘real’ learning begins. What we often miss is that play is how children learn. It is the way in which their brains are wired to experiment, discover, fail, collaborate, be creative, imagine and explore. Even Einstein himself is quoted as saying ‘play is the highest form of research’ and yet, we as adults often dismiss it as unimportant.

Play provides students with time to process information and a chance for the brain to engage with some much needed diffuse thinking, helping important learning connections to be made. I have seen first hand the ‘ah-ha!’ moments when students connect the dots from their learning through play. Watching students jump on shadows in the playground and discussing why they change length throughout the day, counting sticks into their cubby and negotiating compromises or enacting forgiveness when things don’t always go their way. Play serves as an opportunity to put skills and knowledge into practice.

Play also brings joy. Joy in itself is a wonderful thing, building attitudes and positive associations. Students who enjoy their learning make positive neural connections and trigger the release of happiness hormones such as serotonin. Maintaining that connection between joy and learning by encouraging play will help foster lifelong learners and stop learning from feeling like a chore.

‘Play is not an aimless waste of time. When the power of play is harnessed and unleashed it is in fact a basis of academic, emotional and physical growth of a child.’ (Pasi Sahlberg).

At Living Faith, we value play as an important part of learning. We incorporate play by intentionally setting aside time for play as well as integrating it into many of our learning experiences. Harnessing the power of play is an area we intend to continue to grow and foster within our curriculum. As a staff, we are learning about better ways to embrace children’s natural ways of learning by identifying learning opportunities within play and by instigating intentional play-based activities.

Adults often interrupt play in order to ‘teach our kids’ but instead we need to consider how we can bring the learning experiences into our children’s play in meaningful ways. Sometimes the best way we can facilitate learning is to step back and let it happen. Let the tower fall, let the conflict unfold, let the dirt get on the clothes and the imagination run wild. By doing this, we let learning happen so children build a stronger tower, resolve conflict independently, brush themselves off and dream bigger and better.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning