PLAY: The Great Bridge to Learning

Kids playing

As adults we often forget that play is more than just running around. As an adult society, we sometimes equate play with wasting time, or something we only do when we’re on vacation, another very interesting concept. 

Play is in fact the highest form of research, said Einstein

Play is how we explore as children, and many of our greatest colleagues still play. What’s another word for play, that may help us adults remember why it’s so important.

Experimentation and Exploring are two words which share many of the same traits as playing

When we explore, we are actively seeing out to discover new places, ways to create things, ways to communicate, and so much more. When we experiment we are often comparing different approaches to a problem, to find multiple solutions. When we “Play” we ARE exploring and experimenting. I have been constantly reminded of this in my work with adults, youth, and children. Typically, the older we get, the less we play, with some exceptions. Those exceptions are often the ones we point to and say, “Wow, how did they become so successful?”

Have you ever heard of play-based leadership?

If you’re not sure what it is, watch young children play with each other. Is the process without any challenges? Of course not. Is the process of play authentic, and in general filled with energy? Yes, usually. You can bring that into your own life, and if you happen to work with young children and youth as an educator, you can choose to be reminded of this daily. Observe the energy of play in the young ones you lead and guide, and remind yourself that you can lead and guide in playful ways. It has been my experience that when I use a playful approach in all I do in my life, the response is extremely positive. What’s also important to realize, is that we can use play in intentional ways to help our children grow in many ways, including but not limited to the following:

  • Mathematical skills

  • Attention of focus

  • Critical thinking

  • Creative thinking

  • Literacy

  • Social-Emotional learning

Recently I discovered a new game site called www.plays.org Certainly, while there is no one site that meets all my standards for play-based learning, I really liked a number of the games here, in that they’re simple to understand, but lead to me wanting to play and learn over and over again. Yes, I still play like a child! Check it out and below you’ll see my 3 favorite games on that site that I see as developmentally appropriate.

Note: It is important to note that we should not encourage too much screen time for young children. Look back at my earlier blogs to find ways to engage learners off screen, and use technology as part of the approach to play-based learning, not the singular approach.

Footstar

A soccer game that focuses on contextual geometry in a developmentally appropriate manner for ages approximately 3 – 12. As I have pointed out in many of my previous blogs, it is critical to ask young learners questions as they play. I’m not saying you should be asking them questions non-stop, and we also want to avoid using any technology as a babysitter. Questions during this game might include:

  • How would you change the angle to get better at this game?

  • When you change the speed of how hard or soft you kick the soccer ball, what changes?

  • What makes you most curious about this game?

Flight Sim

A flight simulator that focuses on decision making skills, planning, critical thinking, creative thinking, and how to stay calm amidst adversity, for ages approximately 6 – 13.

  • What is a strategy you can use when there are too many planes or helicopters to land?

  • How can you create more time for you to think when it becomes challenging?

Supermarket

A game that focuses on one’s ability to focus, think critically, and handle multiple pieces of information coming at you simultaneously. For ages approximately 5 – 12. During this game, I strongly encourage you to extend the learning to include areas such as:

  • Food Sovereignty 

  • What is healthy food?

  • What happens if we waste food?

  • How can we avoid running out of food?

Keep playing, stay young of brain, strong of mind, and fit of body!

Cheers!

Enrique