Global School Play Day 2021: COVID Version

Many years ago, I saw a tweet about Global School Play Day.  Being one who truly believes in play as an important learning tool for kids (and adults!), and being one who likes to jump in with both feet when I see something that looks like fun (like I did with World Read Aloud Day, for instance), I knew that this was something I wanted to try.  And honestly, we have choice time and recess every day anyway, so it wasn’t that far out of our norm.

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And so even in the midst of this new COVID world at school, I knew this was a day we wanted to continue to observe and celebrate. We had all done GSPD last year as first graders, and so as I was announcing that it was coming up, all I had to do was start the beginning of the word GLOBAL and kids filled in the rest. They were NUTS! Besides the fact that play is always important in the life of a child (and lets be honest, adults, too!), it feels especially important now. Besides the fact that it is a child’s most important work, it helps to add a level of normalcy to their lives right now and helps add to the fun of school.

As we did last year, we started with the ground rules, and also the conversation around why GSPD is a big deal. They came up with this:

What great thinking, huh? I am sure that some of it was because we have had conversations like this before (including GSPD last year), but also, I think they are just really in tune and super smart kiddos! All of their ideas were right, and I had some additional ideas of my own:

1. Negotiation: By participating in free play, children get to learn how and practice what it is like to initiate play with someone else, as well as negotiate with that playmate about what to do, where to do it and how to do it.  They get to learn give-and-take, as well as how to work with others in a positive way (because unfortunately, if you choose NOT to do it positively, your friend may not want to play with you anymore!).

2. Problem Solving: Much like negotiation with friends, kiddos learn and practice problem solving in many ways when they play.  From what to do when the Legos don’t go together they way you want or you don’t have enough big blocks to build your castle, or even where to put the pieces of the puzzle you’re working on, problem solving is a crucial part of play.  Even choosing what to play at any given moment is a kind of problem solving in itself.  Letting kids figure these things out for themselves helps build and encourage grit and perseverance.

3. Winning (and losing!) Graciously: Child-directed play (including playing games) allows kiddos to learn how to win–and also to lose–graciously.  We all know an adult who didn’t get the chance to learn this when they were younger, and now has such a hard time knowing what to do when things don’t go their way.  That same adult might have a really hard time not being overly proud or boastful when things do.  Allowing (or even planning for) situations where students DON’T win are crucial!  Life is not fair, things don’t always go as planned and sometimes someone else does better than you.  How great that kiddos have a chance to learn to deal with these disappointments when the stakes are low, so that when they are higher, they’ll know the appropriate choices to make.  And yes, winning is a good thing that can happen occasionally, too (and how great that kids can learn how to deal with their happiness without sacrificing the feelings of others).

4. Creativity: A big pile of paper, blocks, Legos, cars or any other open-ended toys allows for such a great development of creativity in kids!  Being able to figure out what that pile of “stuff” can become is a great practice in trial-and-error, trying new things or even working with a friend to put two great ideas together to make an even better one.  This practice of creativity in free play can easily be transferred to learning, then, when a kiddo is given open-ended opportunities for both gaining information and showing what they’ve learned.  When they’ve had a chance to try out new things and take risks in a safe, play environment, many students will be more willing to take the same creative risks with their learning.

5. Beating Boredom: I guess this one is another idea that’s related to some others on this list, but being given free time to play is a great way to figure out how to entertain yourself (either alone or with a friend) and keep a kiddo from being “bored.”  Knowing what to do when there’s [seemingly] nothing to do is a life skill, really.

6. Respect, kindness and including others: Play is a great opportunity for kiddos to practice skills they’re learning about showing others respect, using kind words and helping make sure everyone is included.  Helping kids pay attention to who doesn’t have a playmate is a lesson in empathy and is definitely a bucket-filler for a friend who longs to be involved but is perhaps unable to initiate themselves.  Knowing how to speak to others kindly is a skill that can never be mastered and can always be improved upon.

7. Fun!: Um, how have I not mentioned that playing is TOTALLY FUN!?  Yep.  Should have mentioned that one first. 🙂

Ok, so enough of my rambling…I know what you really came to see were the pictures of Rm. 202 kiddos PLAYING!!  Here you go!!

One of the things kiddos were especially looking forward to was our class puzzle. We did one last year, too, and what a fun time we all had putting the pieces together to create something wonderful! Check out our hard work!

Another interesting thing to watch during GSPD is which kiddos play with whom, what they play with and for how long. Some kiddos stay super engaged for a llllooooonnnngggg time and some flit and float from thing to thing.

We started the day with kiddos talking about what THEY could learn, but Mrs. Nguyen (my student teacher) and I also had a great conversation about what WE could learn about our kiddos from this day. Besides what I already mentioned about how we can watch how kids interact and also what they choose to play with, we can learn some important things that can inform what we do in the classroom on “regular” days, too. It is obvious that in our class this year, that most of the time our community splits between girls/boys for play time. In general, the girls do artsy and/or more quiet things, and the boys (again, in general) like to participate in more lively, active type activities. Both groups, though, like to spend time building and creating things. It would make sense then, that we as the teachers prove opportunities for these types of activities in our “normal” school days to allow for fun, creativity and a variety of ways for kiddos to learn and show their learning.

I LOVE the reminders that this day provides for us that EVERYONE likes to and needs to play EVERY DAY!!