Last week I had the very great privilege of meeting and listening to Michael Rosen talk about his passion for reading, writing and the power of play. He was quite simply inspirational. A wonderful wordsmith, he entertained and moved us with his humour, intellect and very human recount of his experience of being in intensive care with covid during the pandemic. The theme for our day was to celebrate and remember the power of play – why it is so integral in education and also for life in general, at all ages. Never stop playing!
Play is quite rightly a fundamental pillar of the Early Years Foundation Stage, placing emphasis on our youngest children developing and refining their physical, communication, language and social skills through open-ended activities that encourage and inspire their imagination. It is remarkable watching children do this, creating the most amazing scenarios, concepts and incredibly complex rules and structures. The skills they are developing are essential for life and that we must ensure we praise their creativity and enjoy the astonishing things they do. Resisting the temptation to apply adult “rules” or ideas can be hard – and whilst we should support them in the aspects of play that they find challenging, it is worth trying to remember that 4-year-olds are fundamentally hard wired not to share! One of the greatest aspects of play is that children are free to try things without fear of failure. In fact, when things get difficult or problematic, children simply change the rules to suit their goal and eliminate the issue. Listening to the speed at which rules or structures change in a game is often cause for great amusement to the onlooker but look closer and we see children adapting and demonstrating agility of thought and fantastic problem-solving capability.
We recognise the value of play here at BPS and encourage a playful approach wherever we can in all year groups. It becomes more “formal” as children grow and we often interchange play for creativity, but every time we present a problem, adjust the point of view, flip the approach or set an open-ended challenge we are asking our children to “play” with concepts, ideas and their knowledge. As Michael Rosen reminded us, many of the greatest inventions in history came about through people playing with ideas. It is at the very heart of discovery and learning. Play sets our imaginations free and when we combine this with subject knowledge it is a very powerful thing. We should also remember that above all play is FUN, which is exactly what education should be!