Welcome back to a new year at Mairtown kindergarten, we trust that you have all had a relaxing and fun summer so far. This new year and new term sees us welcoming many new children and their families; nau mai haere mai Franchi, Jack, Lali, Isla, Kalani, Nelly, Teequan, Jaejin and Madison. We are so joyful that you have chosen Mairtown as your education setting and look forward to the learning journey we will share over the next two (or more) years.
As I write this first blog post of the year today, it is also our first day back at kindergarten after our long refreshing summer break. So, with that in mind I thought it might be nice to share with you some learning I was undertaking with a group of children at the end of last term. Something I am hoping I will continue to work on a little more with the children as this term progresses.
Those of you who have read some of the previous posts written by me will know just how much I love to get children thinking– thinking creatively whilst also thinking about their own thinking (metacognition) – and in this particular blog post - thinking about the learning that happens through their own play.
Play is of course an essential aspect of early childhood because children learn so many skills through their playful engagements. There are many different types and characteristics of play, and I see all our kindergarten children involved in many different aspects of play frequently, and often at the same time!
When I talked to this small group of children about playing, I was interested to see their individuals views on play, to hear their thinking about what they enjoy playing, to encourage each of them to use their thinking skills in a metacognitive manner (where they have to analysis their own learning or thinking processes) and also to see if any of the children feel they learn anything through their play experiences. Research of course states the many benefits of play and being playful, for both children and adults, but I was particularly interested to see if our children value and recognise their own play for what it provides.
Play is sometimes contrasted with ‘work’ and characterised as a type of activity which is essentially unimportant, trivial and lacking in any serious purpose. As such, it is seen as something that children do because they are immature, and as something they will grow out of as they become adults. However, repeated research shows this view is mistaken. Play in all its rich variety is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology. Indeed, without play, none of these other achievements would be possible. The value of play is increasingly recognised for adults as well as children, as the evidence mounts of its relationship with intellectual achievement and emotional well-being. (University of Cambridge).
So, with that in mind last term I asked the questions,
‘What do you enjoy playing?’ and
‘What do you think you learn through this play?’
I just love the responses I got. Aside from the children verbally telling me their thoughts I also encouraged them to draw their ideas. From personal experience I find that drawing is a wonderful tool that can assist children in communicating their thoughts at a deeper level.
Here are just some of the wonderful, and I hope you agree, very thoughtful pieces of work the children produced along with their comments.
Liam “I like playing in the sandpit cause I like to make castles and holes. I learn that my friends, they are helpers, they can help me build things”
is important because it gives you exercise, I like playing rugby cause you can rip
tags and get some tries. Playing rugby makes me feel better, but sometimes it
hurts, but it does make my legs feel better. I learnt rugby by training and I learnt
it’s going to make me stronger. If I keep playing rugby I’ll learn to be really
good like an All Black when I’m older!”
Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn. (O. Fred Donaldson)
Emma “I like playing and I learn that playing is so nice and it makes me have a big heart and a beautiful mind. And playing makes me nicer from my big heart and it makes my mind go round and round, but sometimes playing is hard and makes me tired. I have two brains and one brain goes down, down, down into my heart and my other brain makes me sleepy. Playing is very very much good. Hide and seek is my favourite. My dad and I play hide and seek, this is my dad counting and I’m running behind.”
Charlie "I love playing with my brother because he’s got lots of Lego and money, and he’s way bigger than us, and sometimes he’s naughty and sometimes he’s good. I don’t look happy in this picture cause N won’t let me play with his Lego. When I play with N I learn all about how to be a good sister!”
Max “I like playing with L at my home and the things in my home. I play with all my family, dad and mum and me and R and L and E and I like playing with my friends at Kindy. Dad plays with me, he play with my Lego. When I play I learn how to be a friend, if I play good, I learn how to be a good friend”.
Reese “I have learnt about the monkey bars and about swinging down and slipping off. It’s taught me to be strong and to keep trying, as I swing from one bar to two bars”.
Our NZ curriculum, Te Whāriki, highlights the importance of educators creating environments where children’s play is valued as meaningful learning. Although all the teachers at Mairtown recognise self-directed play as an essential aspect of our kindergarten programme, essentially for the learning it engenders; I can’t help but think after my work with this group of children, after listening to their words, engaging in a conversation with them and supporting them in their drawing as another means of communication and self-expression, we can see that all these children too, recognise their play – perhaps unconsciously – for the valuable contribution it makes to their life long learning and their future educational success.
Children learn through play constantly. They learn to make sense of the world around them, they develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments. Key ways that young children learn include playing, being with other people, being active, exploring new experiences, talking to themselves, communication with others, meeting physical and mental challenges, being shown how to do new things, practicing and repeating skills and having fun. Play is not wasted time, but rather time spent building new knowledge from previous experience (Kahn & Wright, 1980).
Hei konā mai,