By Guest Blogger Jennifer Cantis
School is back in session, and while academics are always of the utmost importance, one aspect of learning that is often overlooked is play!
It is often said that “play is the work of children.” Play is more than just a way for kids to use up excess energy. It is necessary for developing gross and fine motor skills and creating an important connection between the mind and the body. It is essential for brain development. The physical challenges provided by games create dense neural networks that help kids learn better in the classroom and provide the framework for building intelligence and creativity later in life. Play also encourages kids to interact with their peers, and develop important social skills and emotional intelligence. Through this interaction, they learn how to use language effectively, and develop problem-solving skills.
The school playground provides important opportunities for kids to engage in learning through play. Help kids get the most out of their school recess with some of these fun and educational playground games.
Team games are a wonderful way for kids to interact with their peers and practice social skills like sharing and negotiating. An easy-to-follow game that can easily be completed within the span of a typical recess is Baggo, a bag toss game also known as cornhole.
Baggo gives children the opportunity to practice math skills they learned in class, by adding up the score, and it improves their focus by encouraging them to aim for the target. It also provides a great sensory experience with the weighted bags to help kids be more aware of their body.
Minimal equipment is required, and it is easy to pack away the Baggo boards and bags once recess is over. If you aren’t familiar with the rules of Baggo, you can find them online.
Who says playground games need expensive equipment? Grab a piece of chalk and have the kids create their own hopscotch board. Hopscotch may be old-fashioned, but it has become a classic playground game for a reason. Kids love the easy-to-follow rules and the silly jumping action.
Learning to balance on one foot not only improves kids’ sense of balance and spatial awareness, but it also helps to create new neural pathways that are necessary for other learning areas. Hopscotch also teaches kids important social skills like waiting for their turn.
Challenge your students further by mixing up the rules. Try drawing the hopscotch board so it curves, to put their balance skills to the test. Have them jump backward or on two feet, to improve their coordination and boost their brain power.
No childhood playground experience is complete without tag. There are so many variations of this school yard game that children can play to help boost their brain power and release pent-up energy. As kids negotiate the differing rules of each game, they are engaging in important social development and problem-solving.
Many school playgrounds will already have a four-square court painted on the concrete, but, if there isn’t one, you can draw one using some sidewalk chalk. Simply draw a large square and divide it in four.
Four Square is a great game for kids to practice being leaders and setting their own challenges. What will inevitably happen is that once the basic rules of the game are established, and the kids become more proficient, they begin to make up innovative variants of the game.
Capture the Flag
Capture the Flag is a game that can be played by the whole class. In fact, the larger the group, the better.
The basic nature of the game provides the perfect scaffold for teaching kids to enjoy unstructured play. Two teams each have a base where their flag (or another item) is located. The aim of the game is for each team to enter the other team’s base, take the flag, and make it safely back to their own territory.
This game integrates multiple developmental areas. Kids build leadership skills, learn problem-solving and strategy making, and often even incorporate imaginative play into the game by taking on certain roles.
A jump rope is a wonderfully versatile piece of playground equipment that can be used for a variety of games. Aside from a multitude of jump rope songs and rhymes that help kids with focus and memory, there are a huge number of other games that kids can play with a jump rope.
Helicopter is a wonderful game for children who not have mastered jumping with a rope yet. One player stands holding the rope at one end and spins around, dragging the rope along the ground. The other players need to jump over the end of the rope. Anyone who misses gets hit by the rope or lands on top of it is out. The last person remaining wins and becomes the new helicopter.
They say that a healthy body creates a healthy mind. While unstructured play is the ideal method for promoting play-based learning, structured playground games can have a significant effect on not only the physical well-being of students but, also, on their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Provide some of these games for children during their free time at school and watch their minds and bodies flourish.