Discover the importance of PLAY!

Are you ready to become a play advocate? 

Listen to a conversation with Minnesota's own Katy Smith--parent educator and 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year! Katy shared what the research says about play and learning, how loss of play is affecting our students, her ideas for getting play back into the classroom, and how YOU can become a play advocate!

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Questions and Answers from the Webinar:

q-and-a.jpgWe received an abundance of amazing questions during the webinar. We wanted to make sure we addressed all the applicable questions and shared them with you. 

Q: When I was growing up, we went outside and played without adult supervision. Now, it seems, kids don’t do that. How can I encourage my students or my own children to go outside and just play?

A: Great question, and it’s true! “Back in the day,” we played outside—and most often, without adult supervision or predetermined rules. Research (see Resources & References page—slide 31) shows one of the main factors for this change is due to parental safety concerns—and, the media plays a significant role in exacerbating safety concerns—and we all know that we have access to news—and the media-- at all times.

It can be difficult to encourage children to go outside and play—if nobody else is outside playing.

As Katy Smith mentioned during our webinar, work to get to know the neighbors—and your students--and strive to create relationships that get everyone involved and looking out for one another.

Katy shared her story about bringing brownies to the neighbors—and to bring them in a “good” pan—so the neighbors have to bring the pan back—a great opportunity to start a conversation and to create community where everyone looks out for everyone. This holds true in the classroom, as well. We may not share brownies, but we can watch out for one another and encourage fun, learning and cooperation.

Another idea? Start small. Start going outdoors with your students—create boundaries, demonstrate how far they go—ask your kids to turn around and to see what things look like from a distance—show them landmarks—teach them how to tell time—practice playing outside until they feel comfortable.

Practice, practice, practice!

Q: I understand that the process of playing---making the rules, deciding who is going to do what---is when children learn the most—but how do I help others see this? 

A: Look for opportunities to explain what children are learning through play. Talk about self-regulation (learn to start & stop, take turns, practice manners, cooperation).

Discuss the importance of “free-play” where children make up the rules and learn how to get along with peers.

Share resources—like the book on Play by Lisa Murphy---that explains how play is the foundation for learning.

Q: I like using technology in the classroom, but I get worried that my students sit still too much. How can I incorporate play with technology?

A:  Google “gross motor apps for kids” to view lists of suggestions.
Some we like: Pokemon Go, Motion Maze, Big Cat Race—and remember Makerspaces and Geocaching, too!

We know there are many apps teachers use! Ask your colleagues, your students and your friends about the apps they recommend to get kids moving.

Q: As an early childhood educator, I have to constantly explain to other educators and parents the importance of play. Can you suggest any resources that make the case for play that I can share?

A: We would love for you to share this webinar! The webinar is available on our website and would be a great way to spread the word about the necessity of play—and to promote play advocacy.

Two books we like are Play by Lisa Murphy and A Moving Child is a Learning Child by Gil Connell and Cheryl McCarthy but there are many more. Katy included a snapshot of the books she has on her shelf that discuss and support play (see below)—and we have a list of resources on the webinar Resources & References page (slide 31).


Q: I’m a P/E teacher and have seen the time devoted to P/E decrease over the years. I feel helpless. Ideas?

A: Gather like-minded colleagues who support movement, activity and play in your building, school or district and work together to get the word out.

Work with educator colleagues within your school to include movement and activity in lesson plans. Make movement and play a part of every lesson—not just the special ones!

Whenever possible, discuss play with colleagues, administrators, parents and friends. The best place to start is through conversation and education about the importance of movement and play.

Model play to your students and friends!

Q.  Where can I find more about the obesity stats from the CDC? 

A. CDC stats:
The slide in the webinar states “12.7 million children or 1 in 6”—and is representative of “children and adolescents” according to the CDC.
Ages: Ages 6-11 have seen an increase in obesity from 7%-18% from 1980-2012

Ages 12-19 have seen an increase in obesity from 5%-21% from 1980-2012

More information can be found at:

Q. How do you tell parents who want more academics in PreK about what play is?

A. This is a great question and similar to the second question in the list, above—discuss self-regulation, but also talk about the nature of play—that unstructured play teaches children to be resilient, self-reliant---and it teaches them how to negotiate friendships—to be less narcissistic—and they learn if they don’t share in the game or activity---they won’t have anyone with whom to play.

Share the moving stories in this webinar about the polar bear, about Play Doh, and about asking students to do things they are not developmentally ready to do—like in the tooth story.

Beyond the feats of self-regulation, cooperation, getting along with others, exploring different learning styles--- explain that through play, our children learn physics, math, literacy and science—as well as the following:

• Play teaches children are in control of their own life, they learn to solve problems, experience joy, how to get along, empathy, how to get over narcissism--and by definition teaches creativity and innovation.
• Play is nature’s means of ensuring that young mammals, including young human beings, acquire the skills that they need to acquire to develop successfully into adulthood.
• Play in the classroom fosters improvements in such subjects as mathematics, language, early literacy, and socio-emotional skills, and it does so for children from both low and higher income environments.
• Because play’s benefits are so extensive, play has been asserted as a revolutionary and developmentally important activity.
• Play should be viewed as a valuable classroom activity that enables children to develop a wide variety of social and academic skills.
• Through play, children learn how to get along with others, solve problems, inhibit their impulses, and regulate their emotions.
• In play, children make friends and learn to get along with others as equals.

Looking for More?

circle.jpgIf this topic has sparked an interest in you, or you simply want and need to learn more about the importance of play in the classroom, let us suggest a few resources and courses that may be of interest:

Blog Post: Play in the Classroom

Course 5853: A Moving Body, A Thinking Brain - 3 graduate credits 

Course 910: Excelling in the Early Childhood Classroom - 3 graduate credits

Course 5838: The Challenging Child: Strateiges for the Early Childhood Classroom - 3 graduate credits

Explore All Courses

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