My students were waning as we were wrapping up the must-dos of the day. Everyone looked ready to be done and go home. So, with 30 minutes left in the day I announced "Free Choice!" and the countenance of each child immediately changed! There was an immediate switch from cognitive exhaustion to cognitive rigor. From yawning to exuberance in a millisecond, that is the power of play!
Play is freedom! It is the freedom to choose, the freedom to express, create, explore, and discover at ones own pace with joyful autonomy. Play is to children what the weekend is to adults. A chance to learn by doing with a relaxed state of mind. And when it comes to play, whether an adult or child, not only does the body benefit from the relaxation and freedom from stress, the brain also benefits from it’s effects. According to a researcher from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta Canada:
Dr Pellis goes on to explain that the development of the prefrontal cortex is crucial to the regulation of emotions, planning, problem solving, and complex thinking. This is not the only research that corroborates the positive effects of play, there is a wealth of findings that show that children learn best in this way, and that is why play-based learning is the core of my classroom teaching. It is through its powerful effect that I choose to deliver the bulk of my academic content.
Want to see how free choice time looks in my classroom? Check out this video:
If you are looking for some great play-based thematic fun, you might want to check out these cross-curricular thematic units.