Play has long been the cornerstone of childhood. When most of us think of our happy childhood memories, we associate joy and freedom with the experience play. Up until very recently, the rules of play had naturally been passed down from older children to younger children in everyday settings. Children would disappear into neighborhood streets, backyards, bedroom forts, and even magical closets to find the worlds that lived only in their imaginations. The importance of this play has long been documented, and educators of young children will passionately defend the needs and rights of our children to experience developmentally appropriate free play.
Some of us are fortunate to live in neighborhoods where this kind of play is still happening. I am lucky to be one of them. My children spend after school hours and summer afternoons and evenings with neighborhood friends and local family. They span a seven year age difference within their group, and this dynamic provides the kind of organic passing on of childhood rituals and expectations that are increasingly disappearing from our culture.
As a Kindergarten teacher, I see the ways in which children's play experiences outside of the classroom impact their experience within a community of learners. Just as the social culture for play has changed, so has the experience of a young learner in the 21st century. As educators, we are looking to nurture innovators, designers, problem-solvers, and critical thinkers. Long gone are the days of finding the right answer and moving on - now we want our children to discover the questions, explore answers, and innovate solutions.
This is a good thing!
Instead of cheating our children out of their right to imaginative free play, this is the time to embrace it and REDEFINE it! This is not a time to blame technology or the changing world for robbing our children of their childhoods. This is the time to utilize the gift of technology - the possibility of connection - to innovate play.
Using the Twitter hashtag #innovatingplay is our first step toward showing children that we prioritize their creative and joyful experiences of play. It is a space where children can share the process and products of their play in order to elevate and connect their process. Through thoughtful use of technology, we can give children space to learn from each other, develop a deeper understanding of the rights and rituals of play, and reflect on their own growth.
The birth of this project has been a three year process to date. It has been a time of exploring, experimenting, designing, and redesigning. During our last amazing #gafe4littles #slowflipchat Christine Pinto (@PintoBeanz11)challenged teachers to share goals for the upcoming school year. I was struck by the number of teachers searching for ways to create opportunities for meaningful play experiences in the classroom. Through further discussion, the ideas I had been playing with and exploring in the classroom took on a more global vision. Using a design thinking framework, I outlined the process of reaching our goal here:
Now, let's celebrate our children as the designers of play! Let's give them a voice, and together we will help them define their path, and rediscover the rules of play by passing it on through our connection with each other.
Heart & Soul,