Do We Play in Kindergarten?
There is a lot of talk out there these days about kindergarten-age students and play time. Both the news media and social media reflect opinions on playtime—or lack thereof—for students. Most people agree that play is important for young children, so let’s consider the playtime question and how we can answer it here in McGraw, NY. DO we play in kindergarten? The answer is most definitely YES, but there is more to the answer than you may think.
Before we talk about when, where, and how often these children play, we need to establish the vital role it plays in their healthy development. Whether they are running around playing tag or setting up blocks on the carpet, they are working out problems on their own, experimenting with the results of each decision they make, and, as they go along, learning about the consequences of those decisions.
Though at first they may give up on that drawing of a snowman, or on getting those Legos to stay together, they watch their peers and see that it is possible, so they become more persistent and learn to meet the challenges they set for themselves.
While they play with and alongside their peers, they listen to and observe one another. Their imagination grows, and so does their vocabulary. They learn from their friends about that farm someone lives on; how brave that girl’s family member serving in the US Army is; that they are not alone when they miss their mom or dad while they’re at work, and how it looks and feels when they make another child happy or sad.
Do we play in kindergarten at McGraw Elementary? We do. We play outside or inside every single day during our recess period, and again during Choice Time. Outside, they play together while adults observe and keep things safe and positive. We educators have even been known to climb to the top of the pyramid rope climber! We listen and guide their problem solving from a distance, helping them when they need it. At Choice Time, students choose one of the many different play areas in the room, from blocks to “housekeeping” to Legos to computers.
But those are not the only times we play in kindergarten! When we read stories aloud together, we become dramatic and exaggerated, and the kids love it. We are playing. When we learn to count or differentiate between shapes, the kids learn to work with partners or small groups during activities like “Trace a Face” (3D shapes), “Build a Hexagon,” or “Racing Bears.” We are playing. When we practice our sight words, there’s Roll and Record, tracing boards (we all know kids love markers), and partner matching activities. We are playing. When we need to practice our listening skills, we take part in “Hide the Timer” or “Jacob, where are you?” We are playing. When we walk in a straight line in the hallway, we become kindergarten ninjas, trying to get to our mission without being noticed. We are playing.
Even in reading groups, we educators figure out what each child can do, identify what they need to do to improve, and find fun, interactive ways to teach them reading strategies. We are caring, interested grown-ups who are giving them our (somewhat) undivided attention, and they are doing something so new and exciting that they are engaged and proud of themselves, and we are there. We are playing, with them, all day.
So the next time you notice an article about the lack of play time in kindergarten, remember that there is no need to panic. Here at McGraw Elementary School, we know that for our children, our students, their play IS their work. It is the most important job they will ever have, and it is non-negotiable. Yes, we do play, and we love it!
Cathy Boland, Kindergaren Teacher