By Clonlara School
We’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: “Not enough can be said about the importance of play.” In fact, play is so important that we have always made time for it at Clonlara School, even when the trend in traditional education has been toward limiting and structuring students’ playtime.
Free and unstructured play has many benefits for young children that pave the way for healthy learning and growth, such as supporting the development of language, gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, and social skills. Yet, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “30 percent of US kindergarten children no longer have recess.” To bring increased awareness to the importance of play and encourage families to prioritize it, the AAP even recommends that pediatricians write parents and infants a prescription for play during their well-child visits!
At Clonlara, we believe play is important for all ages. In a new research summary (PDF), we outline the following key elements of play that support learning, and we show how they align with our educational approach:
- Play involves freedom and choice. We believe that the joy of play enhances the learning process. By giving students ample freedom to explore their interests through play, Clonlara empowers them to let their curiosity guide their learning. Our Full Circle Learning Model extends this freedom to academics by giving students a framework for deciding what topics interest them most, how they want to learn, and how to share their learning with others.
Play cultivates intrinsic motivation. By allowing our students the space to be guided by their own sense of wonder and desire for knowledge and understanding, we regularly observe them working hard to overcome roadblocks, find workarounds, and persist in their play and projects.
Play promotes full engagement. Because learning at Clonlara is more process than outcome oriented, our students can freely engage in play and projects that connect to their academic interests and goals, making daily learning activities more engaging and enjoyable.
Play is imaginative and spontaneous. Clonlara students are the drivers of their play and learning, not the passive recipients of what has been predetermined for them. Our Full Circle Learning Model encourages them to ask questions, seek information, experiment, create, and design their own learning experiences. With guidance from their teachers, advisors, parents, and mentors, they take on increasing responsibility for plotting their own course and navigating what turns up as they pursue their interests.
Play necessitates order and rules. Clonlara encourages students to have a voice in decisions that impact their learning. On our campus, this practice extends to the development of schoolwide rules and expectations where, just as in play, our students make contributions that they feel will enhance their experience. As a result, they adhere to the established rules because they are invested in the school’s culture, feel connected to one another, and truly enjoy being part of the Clonlara community.
To learn more about why play is such a crucial developmental activity and how the research connects with Clonlara’s educational approach, download our complete summary (PDF). And, please share it with family, friends, and others who may be looking for a few more good reasons to play!
Whether your child is in a school or home-based setting, what aspects of play are most important to you?