Play is Not A Dirty Word

​​Often people try to distinguish between play and learning. If students are seen to be playing, then they are not learning. The ‘real’ learning can obviously only happen when the ‘play’ stops. However, as humans, play is fundamentally how we explore new concepts and try new ideas. Play allows us to ‘have a go’ without worrying about ‘getting it right’.

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Think back to when you bought your last device, phone, tablet or even car. Did any of us read a manual? Or did you start pressing buttons to find out what happened. That’s play!

Play allows learners to explore how a word or sentence sounds, to be silly with rhymes and develop a love of reading and writing. Play enables learners to construct number sentences and 3D objects. Play allows room for scientific discovery. When introducing a new text, for example, learners may engage in ‘play’ around the text. This is part of the Familiarising stage of learning, where students are introduced to the vocabulary, type of text and context of the text they are about to engage in. This allows for connections to be made and for all students to be able to access the learning.

Sometimes, course, there is just play as our brains and bodies need a brief respite. But in classrooms of the 21st century, play is often embodied in the learning.


So next you see your child ‘just playing’ in the classroom, stop and observe, or ask the teacher, what is the learning?