Ten Minute Play Challenge
This post in intended mainly for primary grade teachers but really I think unstructured play can be valuable for all levels
Almost everyone that teaches young children agrees that play is valuable. Some more than others, but overall I think we all see the value of unstructured play. I consider unstructured play to be time in which there is not a predetermined learning goal or specific objective. Just time to play. What I continue to hear from teachers is that they don’t have the time or their district/school does not allow for play in their daily schedule. Finding the time is something I struggled with as well until I visited NAEYC last year. I went to a session by Vivian Paley about storytelling and one of the questions that was asked was about how often or how much time should we allow for storytelling. Her answer was simple… “10 minutes is better than nothing, but the more time you have to practice the better you get” Although she wasn’t specifically talking about play it struck me that I had been trying too hard to fit play into my schedule. The next week I changed my goal for play time to simply find 10 minutes each day. I stopped trying to write it into my schedule and instead looked for time that fit each day. Some days it is the last 10 minutes of school, some days after lunch, or after journal time, always before an assembly when they have to sit fo so long and on Friday it is the first 10 minutes of the day. I think it is important to discuss that this is not my time for computer, emails or planning. I am playing WITH the kids, introducing vocabulary, encouraging social skills, guiding the use of the tools, and most importantly building relationships. Of course, there are days that I am not able to fit it in and some days we go longer than 10 minutes but overall that timeframe works best for me now. If you need information, articles or research to help explain the value of play to parents or administration start HERE.
I call our play time “Imagination Tubs” and I think that name works great for what is happening in the room during this time. Right now our tubs include Lego’s, Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars, Thomas Train set (found a huge lot of tracks on Ebay this summer), Marble Runs, Magnets, Lincoln Logs, Dominos, Acorns, Rocks, and various sets of figures (horses, dinosaurs, aquatic animals etc.) My goal is to find things that encourage imagination, construction or role play. I started with only 10 imagination tubs and now have over 30 that I rotate between. I have found several at garage sales, a few on clearance at toy stores and the majority have been donated by parents. I even sent a “wish list” of items I wanted to the parents this year and they donated many things.
Looking to fit play in your schedule, or add more time? I hope you will take the 10 minute challenge and let me know how it goes. Play is a child’s work!