As a Kindergarten teacher I have read and been involved with lots of professional opportunities about why play matters and why it is important. Play really gives us all an opportunity to engage in what we are curious about with others. Through our play we are able to have fun, engage in conversation with others and enrich our thinking because we are thinking deeply about what is important.
So why is this important?
Children are naturally curious and want to learn. They see patterns and make connections easily with their surroundings. I have noticed how my students draw from their own personal experiences and then add new knowledge/ experiences to help them make sense of an idea. This matters because children are engaged with what they want to know. They learn by doing and having conversations about their ideas. This is where children think critically and solve problems.
Play builds confidence and self esteem. It offers all children an opportunity to pursue their ideas. This matters because when we are curious, we work hard to find out about our idea. Through their curiosity children begin to develop their own creativity because they are invested in their ideas. This is learning.
In Kindergarten we have play throughout the day. Play can look and sound differently on any given day in Kindergarten. One of the many reasons why I enjoy being in Kindergarten.
Recently we created Machu Picchu as a collaborative experience because we are exploring South America. My students did an amazing job exploring the history behind this amazing place as well as learning about why it was created and who lived there. After we completed the construction of Machu Picchu. My students began playing around it. Some of my students created special fire engines and machines that could be used to reach a fire as well as provide water for the people who lived there. As I watched and listened one afternoon I heard so much rich language and also what my students had learned and how they were applying it to their play.
Some of the conversation was about “how to” make wheels that would work so the fire truck could get to the mountain to help the people. They were collaborating about what ways they could get water to people who were unable to get their own as well as talking about making sure to get all the plants planted and watered before the sun went away. Just with these few ideas is an amazing amount of knowledge about what we learned, but also about “how to” create opportunities to make a difference with the tools/toys we had available in Kindergarten.
We are also exploring Spanish as well. By using GoogleHangout as a platform we are connecting with middle school students who are teaching us some Spanish words. We created a wall for our new vocabulary. My students use this throughout the day as well. When exploring Machu Picchu one of my students was counting, in Spanish the steps up the stairs. Again, this was authentic and came from the children. I am thinking a lot about the value of play and how important it is that we give our students opportunities to play with a variety of materials in a variety of ways.
Thinking about next year and how will I continue to offer rich opportunities for play. Thinking also about when I am engaged in the things I enjoy most, I am happy and learning lots…..