Many people do not know this about me, but I’m a country girl. The first twenty years of my life I grew up in what I called the boonies. It was house filled with horses, dogs, cats, people and even a lone sheep 🙂 I spent my life playing in coolies, forests, tree forts and swamps. Quite often, my sisters and I would come home with pockets full of all sorts of interesting things that my mother made us leave on the steps before we walked in the door.
I worried about my peanut growing up in the city that she would not get these same experiences as I did growing up. Funny enough I did not give her or my husband and I enough credit. We spend most of our days at parks and playgrounds, her favorite thing to do when the snow is gone is ride her bike and scooter around our cul-de-sac. I’ll never forget the first time I caught her hanging from a tree branch, how proud she was that she had shimmied up a tree.
What this has to do with today’s post on Global Play Day you might wonder. It starts with a conversation I had at Christmas I had with some of my students. I went around the room asking them to share one cool present they got but also to share one great thing they did over the holiday. Most of the answers were similar – they had gone tobogganing, they had gone swimming, but a new answer came up that sort of bothered me. I had two of my students share they got to spend the whole holiday “playing on the ipad.” I asked if they had done anything else fun, played with a friend, gone somewhere and they were quite happy to share that they got free, unlimited access to this technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of technology – it has a place both in my workplace and at home. I am also that parent, when stressed and rushed trying to throw supper together, I will throw the iPad at my peanut just so I can have a few moments peace. But I also believe greatly in balance. I feel it is important for kids to have those moments where their face isn’t buried in a piece of tech. I believe they should have the chance to get out and play like we did when we were kids.
So, when the email came reminding me about Global Play Day I again presented this to my staff asking them to give up an afternoon for this. I shared how I felt it was so important to give our students the time to have unstructured play, where we would not plan it out for them or tell them what to do or how to do it. It was important for us to give them access to choices and then just step back unless needed. And again they stepped up and agreed to my crazy plan. (I love that about them)
Today was the day and I was lucky enough to be able to walk around and see Global Play Day in action. I walked around and saw imagination and creativity in so many different ways. Boys were making home made beyblade spinners with unifix cubes, there were card tower challenges, domino runs and so much more. Students right from kindergarten to grade six were just playing – they were laughing and talking. They were sharing, taking turns, collaborating, working together, building amazing things out of everyday things like blocks and cubes. They were creative, imaginative and just having fun. The power of that was something that should not be lost in this never-ending march of homework, standardized tests, and reading levels.
They all loved knowing that they were part of a group of students across the globe playing like they were. I was lucky enough to even sneak a peek at my peanut and watch her building with her grade 6 buddy, making towers with magnets. Her and her buddy were talking away, she didn’t even notice I was there. It’s funny because I am sure if the students had had their way, this would have gone on much longer than it did. It was the teachers that were quite happy to shut things down. (it’s amazing how the volume can go up when kids are having fun).
Our kids spend so much time in structure – in the hours at school and then the afterschool teams, clubs and lessons that many of them are involved in. I honestly believe it is important to give our students these moments where we can just to remind them how fun it is to be a kid. They will learn soon enough the responsibilities that come from getting older.
To the organizers of Global Playday, you asked if we should add another day, to that I say a resounding yes. The more opportunities our students can have to moments like these, the more they can go home and say, “Guess what, at school I got to just play today!” And isn’t that a great thing?