2.5 Weeks + 7 Books = Emerging Ideas About Play

January 21, 2021

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started my sabbatical earlier this month. I submitted my project proposal in November 2019 for review. What a long time ago! As I mentioned in my recent post, New Year, New Name, my focus is learning more about play. I decided to start this work by reading. Such a simple task that I do everyday, but I am realizing that it is different now. Although I have goals for my work, I am finding that having time to read without any impending deadline is giving me new excitement to explore and discover. I am not sure exactly how to express this but I think that I don’t feel the pressure to finish up so that I can use the information. (Although I have uncovered much that is useful.) I feel fortunate to have this time to think and really dive deeply into understanding more about play.

The books that I have read either come from the stack of books that I bought in the past, but never had the chance to read, or come from discoveries I make as I read.

Below is a list of the books I have read up to this point.

I thought I would focus on a couple of the emerging ideas that I am thinking about for Play in Early Childhood (ER 2155). This course is part of the General Education program as it is a Wellness Course (WECO). Part of my work this semester focuses on making revisions to this course. When this course was first developed, it was a major requirement for early childhood to provide students the opportunity to understand the importance of play in young children’s learning and development. In addition, we wanted to give students time to play to prepare them for guiding young children’s play. Now that this course has a WECO designation, students from many different majors can take this course. I want to consider how I can connect to perspectives beyond early childhood as I teach this course. I think that having this background knowledge will help me as I work with a variety of disciplines.

One big idea that I am thinking about is how students reflect about play within the course. Currently, the course has several in-class Play Experiences to provide them with opportunities to experience different types of play (sensory, art, object, and games with rules). Then students answer reflection questions to help them think about their experiences and how they connect these ideas to their knowledge of young children’s play. As I read, I noticed that several of the authors provide opportunities for the reader to reflect on play through the questions that they ask in their books.

Lisa Murphy, Lisa Murphy on Play: The Foundation of Children’s, includes questions at the end of each chapter in Part 2 of her book. These questions seem to be designed to help early childhood educators consider how they play or how they support children’s play. I see the potential of many of these ideas to help the students reflect on their play whether it is inside the classroom or on their own. Below are a few examples that I am thinking about using.

How does making time each day to CREATE meet a child’s cognitive, language/literacy, social/emotional, and physical developmental needs? (p. 84)

Do I make time for both large and small motor movement activities on a daily basis? What are some examples? (p. 98)

What is my comfort level with allowing children to figure things out for themselves? (p. 131)

Throughout, Michael Rosen’s book, Michael Rosen’s Book of Play! Why Play Matters, and 101 Ways to Get More of it in Your, he encourages the reader to play. One way he does this is through questions to provoke the reader to think about play. For instance, he provides several prompts at the beginning of the book to encourage the reader to think about the play they have engaged in during the last week.

Have you done any playing this week?

Have you done a puzzle?

Have you been clearing out an old room, or clearing a shelf, and found an old game and decided that you’d stop doing what you were supposed to be doing so that you could play your old game for a while?

pp. 9-10

These ideas make we think about the possibility of students creating a play journal where they would reflect on play. I am thinking that the journal could be structured in a way where some reflections everyone would do, maybe like reflections from our shared play experiences in class, and other reflections might be self-selected about the students’ play outside of class. I would like to explore potential ways students might create this reflective space, as I would like to give students choice in how they might share their ideas.

Another idea from Murphy’s book that I am thinking about relates to her words below.

We must pause to remember that play is a very intellectual activity overflowing with opportunities for problem solving and creativity. To really begin believing and understanding this, though, we must first allow ourselves to remember what it was like when we were children.

p. 166

Murphy then offers a list of questions to help the reader think about their play as a child. Here is a sample.

How did you play when you were little?

How did you spend those lazy summer days?

Where were the grown-ups?

How did you know when it was time to come home?

pp 166-167

Meanwhile, Mike Lanza, Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play, starts his book by asking the reader,

think of the 10 best memories of your childhood before high school.

p. 3

Lanza then shares his list of ten from his childhood. He then uses these memories to introduce his ideas about neighborhoods and play.

This makes we wonder if I should ask students to consider creating a play autobiography at the beginning of the class. Perhaps the autobiography would be the first reflection in the play journal. This activity might provide them with time to think about their play and how it relates to what we do in the course. We currently spend time talking about their memories of play as we begin our discussions about the different types of play. I wonder what might happen if they had extended time to think about the play of their childhood at the beginning of the semester. How would this influence their engagement and thinking about play throughout the semester?

As mentioned above, Rosen provides many opportunities for play in the book and another way he does this is by injecting opportunities for play in the middle of the book. I like that Rosen doesn’t wait until the end of the chapter or the next section of a chapter to share these ideas. You are reading about play and then turn to the next page and you encounter an opportunity for play. Below is an example.

Makeshift Art Gallery p. 34

Rosen’s play experiences got me thinking about the potential of these ideas. I am thinking about adding something like a Play Break, working name at the moment. My thought is this could be a way to infuse more play into the course and provide short bursts of play during class sessions that focus more on discussion of play topics rather than specific Play Experiences. I think this play could help students see play in other contexts while also breaking up the hour and forty minute session. The list below from Rosen’s book require few or no materials and seem that they wouldn’t take much more than 10-15 minutes. I think this will be a good starting point for thinking about how to incorporate more play into the course.

  • p. 40- Surrealist Doodles
  • p. 52- Deface your Darlings
  • p. 68- Word Ladder
  • p. 72- Metaphysics
  • p. 73- Encyclopedia
  • p. 84- Alliteration Accumulation
  • p. 102- What would happen if…
  • p. 113- Mapping a Movie
  • p. 120- Two Tellers
  • pp. 126-127- ‘three-thing’ trick
  • p. 136- Thinking on your Feet
  • p. 158- After the ‘Happily Ever After’
  • p. 164- Would You Rather
  • p. 202- Not Paper Aeroplanes

I am really excited about the potential of these ideas and with more time and thought how these experiences could strengthen the students’ learning and understanding of play. I want to end by sharing a resource that I discovered in Play Matters by Miguel Sicart. Monstrum designs artistic playgrounds. These play spaces are beautiful and the videos about the design process provide many insights into these amazing pieces of artwork. Trust me take a look and be inspired about what play could be.