December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Importance of Play | Professional Shelf

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

 

In our sometimes frantic race to the top and well-intentioned bid to leave no child behind, many early childhood settings have curtailed children’s play. When block and housekeeping corners give way to flash cards and workbooks, children don’t always benefit. The Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) maintains, “Rather than diminishing children’s learning by reducing the time devoted to academic activities, play promotes key abilities that enable children to learn successfully.” These abilities include “self-regulation, symbolic thinking, memory, and language.” Whether your early childhood program is rethinking its reliance on paper and pencil tasks or has steadfastly embraced play as an essential component of the curriculum, these titles offer guiding principles for educators who strive to ensure that every child succeeds.

creative block playAn essential resource, Creative Block Play: A Comprehensive Guide to Learning through Building (Redleaf Press, 2017), by educator Rosanne Regan Hansel, provides everything teachers and caregivers need to know about the benefits of block play along with pointers for scaffolding children’s exploration. Hansel outlines the ways in which block play supports social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development as children learn to solve multifaceted problems on their own; use language, writing, and drawing to share their work; and physically interact with their environment. Practical suggestions for getting started include guidelines for choosing blocks, descriptions of various types of blocks, thoughts on storage and organization, and ideas for introducing extension activities, such as writing journals and art materials. Outdoor block play and woodworking are also considered. Finally, Hansel demonstrates the use of block play in long-term learning projects on a variety of topics with detailed examples from actual classrooms. Throughout, crisp color photos highlight the expansive creativity, deep concentration, and obvious joy of young children at work and play.

embracing roughIn Embracing Rough-and-Tumble Play: Teaching with the Body in Mind (Redleaf Press, 2017) Mike Huber shares his commitment to allowing space for physical movement in early childhood classrooms. With the insight that comes from years of teaching, Huber argues convincingly that children need to move more often than is generally allowed, and when teachers and caregivers respect that need, children benefit socially and cognitively. He explains that “much of play labeled rough-and-tumble is neither rough nor does it involve tumbling.” Instead, it includes full-body activities such as climbing, stomping, and roughhousing, play that is often discouraged, usually through concern about safety or behavior management. Huber tackles thorny issues, such as gender and cultural expectations, the difference between play and aggression, the role of physical contact, and the benefits of warplay while offering straightforward, useful advice. Chock-full of specific recommendations, real classroom examples, and enticing color photos, this guide makes active classroom play hard to resist.

The cooperative gamesCreative and active play often calls for teamwork. In The Cooperative Games Bullying Prevention Program: Cooperative Games for a Warm School Climate Pre-K to Grade 2 (Better World Education, 2017), Suzanne Lyons, owner of CooperativeGames.com, discusses the history and positive role of cooperative games. Citing a 1994 University of Nevada, Reno study, Lyons proposes using cooperative games to build relationships and reduce bullying. Her program utilizes four board games for children ages four–seven (published by Family Pastimes) and a set of seven active games developed by Terry Orlick, Ph.D, a professor of kinesiology. Several of the active games put a non-competitive spin on a familiar activity. For example, in Cooperative Musical Chairs, as chairs are removed, children work together to share chairs rather than compete for their own. Directions for 50 additional active games are included. Most require few or no materials, take 10-15 minutes to play, and are welcome additions to any teacher or caregiver’s repertoire, perhaps especially in settings where play has been relegated to the sidelines.

Curriculum Connections

This article was featured in our free Curriculum Connections enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you every month.

Alicia Eames About Alicia Eames

A former Brooklyn Public Library children's librarian and NYC public school teacher/librarian, Alicia Eames is a freelance editor and a frequent contributor to the SLJ’s Curriculum Connections “Professional Shelf” column.

Share
A Day-Long Celebration of Fandom-Beloved Stories and Characters
Join Library Journal and School Library Journal for our inaugural LibraryCon Live! We’re excited to offer this day-long virtual festival for book nerds, librarians, and fans of graphic novels, sci-fi, and fantasy. Network online with other fans and explore our virtual exhibit hall where you’ll hear directly from publishers about their newest books and engage in live chats with featured authors. You’ll also learn from librarians and industry insiders on how to plan and host your own Comic Con-style event.
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*