“Play” Comes Next In This #5Days5Words Challenge

It’s another day, and my fourth opportunity for a #5days5words blog postToday’s word is not a new one for me, but it is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot this summer: play.

Last month, I read a fantastic book by Lisa Griffen-Murphy about play. Much of this book aligns with what my teaching partner, Paula, and I believe about the value of play, so even after only reading a single chapter, I was inspired to share an Instagram post about it. 

My love of this book continued, and surprisingly for an academic text, I actually struggled with putting it down.

In the end I could not praise this book enough, and there’s so much that I could blog about on it, but Lisa actually provided me with one of my aha moments on play. It was towards the end of Chapter 16 that I read this paragraph and added my note.

For a couple of years now, I’ve struggled with figuring out why there is such a huge disconnect between what “free play” seems to look like in different classrooms, when our document is so explicit about the value of unstructured play. I think this paragraph sums up a possible reason.

  • As adults, how do we interpret “play?” 
  • What kind of structure do we impose on it?
  • How do we become more comfortable with the “free play” from our childhood?

I can’t help but think about this wonderful comment from a Camp Power camper the other day. Every Friday, we invite parents into the camp to join us in our learning, and this child was building with her mom when she made this comment. I’m so grateful to her instructor for tweeting it out. 

Contemplating what both Kristi Keery-Bishop and Sue Dunlop said on creativity, I question if we can get to this deep level of creativity, imagination, thinking, problem solving, and application with the more limiting nature of the structured play that we might provide. I wonder what would happen if more school and Board PD allowed educators to get creative and play in an unstructured way. Would we unlock some of the magic from our childhood? Are we ready to do so? With a new school year approaching, I wonder if we could re-look at what “play” means, and what it could inspire in kids of all ages. Imagine the possible impact on all subject areas if we could get to the deep thinking and problem solving that comes from true play.


4 thoughts on ““Play” Comes Next In This #5Days5Words Challenge

  1. I share your epiphany about the word play meaning so many things to so many people. I think this is something you and I have discussed before but it deserves to be discussed again (and again…). I think what matters is that through discussions like this blog post, we all expand our vision of play and it’s possibilities. I think the more we do this, the more play will be valued as a learning tool for kids and adults of all ages. Thanks Aviva!

    • Thanks Kristi! You’re right. We have had this conversation before, and I have no doubt that this will not be my last post on play. Some topics are worth discussing multiple times. I did find it interesting to think about how adults versus kids view play. Do we sometimes think we’re giving kids opportunities to play when really we’re not? I’m not sure how to disrupt this thinking on play, but maybe blog post discussions are a start.


  2. As I read this I couldn’t help thinking about our parents. They get political messages [e.g., in Ontario right now] about digging deeper into basics as the way forward. Then we say play-based learning… I often hear confusion and fear around unstructured play in school.

    Will Richardson talks about parents also needing to become modern learners if they are going to be advocates for deeper learning – different from their personal experience – in schools: https://modernlearners.com/parents-as-modern-learners-2/

    I think you are on to something here with the observation that play actually means different things to different people (“learning” does as well I might add). We have to be conscious of this as we help families understand the value of play in learning.

    • Thanks Donna! What a wonderful point about parents and the messages out there. They do vary, and we need to understand this, but also build understanding around what this “play” and this “learning” could mean. I will say that at the beginning of the school year, we often have some parents that wonder about this play-based Kindergarten Program, but then when they see and hear what their kids can do, their perceptions change. I can understand this concern. I left Kindergarten many years ago due to my own fear around “play,” and my question on if it really helped kids learn. It took to moving to the junior grades to help me realize just how powerful and important play can be.

      Thanks for the link to Will Richardson’s post. I’m going to check this out now. These are conversations that we should continue to have among parents and educators!


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